Too often we view getting exercise as formal, dedicated workout sessions filled with activities like running, lifting weights, doing yoga, or more intense activities like CrossFit. While these workouts all have great advantages and can help you maintain an active lifestyle and strengthened body, the reality is they take time. Even on the best days it can be difficult to find a solid 30-minute block to exercise, let alone doing it five times a week.
For many, that time commitment is a barrier and the automatic response may be to not exercise at all. However, there is tremendous value to your health in being active, whether or not that activity is a formal workout.
Traci Heiner, cardiac rehab supervisor at Utah Valley Hospital, says, “When we’re looking at overall health, we just need to become more active. It’s great if you can get the 30 minutes at one time, but a lot of people just don’t do that. I would say whatever you get up and do is going to help you.”
Squeezing in extra physical activity doesn’t have to be difficult and can even be fun. If you’re looking for something a little different to add more physical activity to your day, try one of these unconventional activities.
This augmented reality app has tens of thousands of people across the world out and active looking for Pokémon. The app requires users to physically move around in the real world to find the digital creatures in the game. This means a lot of walking, sometimes in short bursts, and sometimes in longer journeys. But the key component is physical activity.
Traci says Pokémon is great because it gets kids and adults up and moving, rather than the traditional method of sitting on a couch to play video games. Not only are players getting physical activity from the game, but they’re not eating junk food, which is common while playing video games.
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“I love it,” Traci said about Pokémon. “Because the more that we see that getting up and doing is fun, and we feel good, I don’t care what kind of activity it is, I think it’s fantastic. They’re not walking around the neighborhood very fast, but they’re walking around, which is a whole lot better than sitting on their couch, just playing on the phone.”
Level Up Tip: You can increase the intensity of your Pokémon exercise by jogging between pokéstops. Just be sure to pay attention to your surroundings so you don’t trip and fall!
Before Pokémon GO took the world by storm, geocaching was another search and find activity that got people up and moving. Geocaching has been around for years and is a great way to be physically active and explore the world around you. A cache is some sort of container that has been hidden and you are given the geographical coordinates to try to find it. If you have a smartphone, you have everything you need to geocache. Simply download a geocache app (there are many free options) and search for geocaches wherever you might be. If you’re downtown for lunch, in the mountains on vacation, or around your neighborhood, odds are high there’s a geocache near you.
Commercial Break Workouts
Commercials are the worst, but you can maximize those wasted minutes by squeezing in some exercise. During commercial breaks, do simple exercises like a set of pushups or sit ups. Jog in place. Run up the stairs and back again (you have extra motivation to do it fast before the show starts again). Even something as simple as standing up and stretching your arms and legs during commercials can help.
“Stretching is really good during the commercials,” says Traci. “Most of us leave that out of our healthy living routine. You can hold a stretch for every commercial – they’re only 15 to 30 seconds long – so you just hold it and switch to another stretch when another commercial comes on.”
Stuck in an office all day? While a cozy desk job may be a dream for some, it can take a toll on your health. But you can find ways to squeeze in more activity. Every hour, Traci recommends getting up and moving around for 3 or 4 minutes. It can be as simple as walking, wall sits, stretching, or wall pushups — anything that gets you up and moving.
RELATED: Workplace Fitness Ideas
Another way to squeeze in more activity at the office is to do more in-person visits. Avoid emailing or calling for every conversation. Get up and physically walk over to someone’s office. You can also hold walk-and-talk meetings. It’s a meeting you’ll actually enjoy attending!
Park Farthest Challenge
Forget the “if you don’t look close, you don’t park close” saying. Look for the parking spot farthest away from a building’s entrance and enjoy the extra walk into the building. Sure, this can be tough during the winter months, but when the weather is nice the extra distance can boost the number of steps you take during the day, as well as the amount of time you’re physically active.
Nobody really likes chores, but why not kill two birds with one stone by letting your chores double as exercise time? Instead of simply carrying the laundry basket from one room to the next, add 5-10 lunges between the rooms, or do some squats. Try a wall sit with that laundry basket.
“There are strength activities that you can do even when you’re doing your chores,” says Traci. “Vacuuming is probably one of the best activities you can do in the house. It’s more strenuous than many of the chores that we have. So volunteer to do the vacuuming.”
Even without adding intensity to chores, simply increasing the rate at which you do those chores can make a difference. Picking up the pace gets the chores done quicker, and burns more calories in a shorter period of time.
Gamify Your Activity
Adults aren’t the only ones who need to increase their physical activity. There are many obese and inactive children who could benefit from more exercise. Making exercise fun is important. Try things like timing how fast your kids can clean up a room, or how fast they can get an item from the pantry. The competitive aspect of this works well if you have multiple children.
While a solid 30 minutes of exercise, five day a week, is still the ideal, the next best thing is getting all the physical activity you can during the day, and these unconventional activities can help.
Traci recommends adding up all the physical activity you do throughout the day. If it’s 3 minutes of walking up the stairs, 5 minutes of cleaning up the house, or 8 minutes of vacuuming, add it all up. Set a goal to reach 60 minutes of combined activity throughout the day, and have fun doing it.