Find out 25 ways to add movement to your day.
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Lifestyle Activity As Healthy As A Gym Workout
by Carol Krucoff
One woman started walking laps around the soccer field instead of sitting during her child's practice. One man stopped driving to restaurants for lunch and started walking to lunch instead.
These were some of the small changes that added up to major health benefits for participants in Project Active, a two-year study conducted at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas. Researchers randomly assigned 235 sedentary men and women into two groups: a lifestyle group that learned behavioral skills to help them gradually fit more physical activity into their daily routines, and a structured group that used a fitness center to do traditional forms of vigorous exercise such as aerobics, swimming, stair climbing and walking.
The results suggest that lifestyle activity is as effective as a structured exercise program in improving health.
For example, both groups decreased body fat by "about one clothing size. . .2.4 percent for the lifestyle group and 1.9 percent for the structured group," notes the study's lead author, exercise psychologist Andrea Dunn.
"This is good news for people whose barriers to exercise may include lack of time, lack of access to facilities or dislike of vigorous exercise," says Dunn. "Many people think exercise is an 'either-or' phenomenon, where you either go to the gym and work out for 30 minutes or you do nothing. This study helps demonstrate that every step you take counts."
Many people don't realize how little physical activity they actually get and how important it is for them to use every opportunity they have to be active.
In fact, researchers estimate that adults burn an estimated 800 fewer calories (about the equivalent of four glazed donuts) per day than did previous generations, largely because technology has engineered physical activity out of our lives.
For example, one 49-year-old aerospace engineer was able to drop 10 pounds and lower his cholesterol from 210 to 195 simply by taking a few extra steps at the office whenever he needed to use the restroom or get a bite to eat
25 Ways To Add Movement To Your Day
Here's a starter list of 25 life "activating" strategies:
- Don't use the nearest bathroom. Use one that requires you to walk a bit, preferably up or down some stairs.
- Balance on one foot while brushing your teeth. Balance on the other foot while combing your hair.
- Park in the furthest space.
- Move with your kids. Instead of just watching soccer practice, walk up and down the sidelines. Join in your child's karate class. At the playground, get off the bench and swing, climb, hang and slide.
- Hide your TV remote, so you have to get up and walk across the room to push the buttons.
- Never take an elevator fewer than three flights, take the stairs.
- Get rid of your electric can opener and use a manual one.
- Turn your coffee break into a walk break. Walk to a distant vending machine, cafeteria or coffee shop to get your snack.
- Stretch or walk while you're talking on the (cordless) phone, preferably with a headset.
- Set an "activity" timer or program your computer to remind you to take periodic walking and/or stretching breaks.
- Take a five-minute walk before you sit down to eat.
- Walk or bike to do errands instead of driving.
- Take a minute to stretch your arms, legs, back, shoulders and neck whenever you get up from sitting or lying down.
- Sweep your floors, patio and/or front walk every day.
- During TV commercials, get up and walk or get down and stretch.
- Socialize actively. Instead of sitting and talking, go for a walk with family and/or friends. Or go bowling, play Ping-Pong, basketball, bocce ball or line dancing.
- Put your favorite mug on a very low shelf, so you'll have to squat down to get it out and put it back.
- Take your dog for a walk every day. If you don't have a dog, borrow your neighbor's, or just walk your "inner dog."
- Practice "aerobic shopping" by taking a lap around the mall or grocery store before you go into a store or put an item in your cart.
- Avoid "drive-thrus." Park your car and walk in.
- Practice good posture when you're forced to wait in line. Stand firmly on both feet and try to raise the top of your head to touch an imaginary hand held a quarter-inch above you. Let your spine extend, stomach lift, shoulders relax and arms fall at your sides.
- Don't automatically drive. If the dry cleaner is across the parking lot from the bank, walk there. (Wear decent walking shoes or keep a good pair in your car.)
- Install a chin-up bar in a convenient doorway, then use it often to chin-up, pull-up or simply hang.
- Try musical housework. Put on dancing music and sweep, vacuum or wash windows to the beat.
- Every time you hear a bell ring (phone bell, doorbell, church bell, etc.) take a deep breath and smile. Think of it as "mouth yoga" that relaxes hundreds of muscles in your face. And it's contagious, so pass it on.