Becoming more active needn’t mean losing all your free time, here’s out to squeeze fitness into your daily routine, say HANNAH EBELTHITE and KATHLEEN ALLEAUME
(Full version of article was published in the September 2013 version of the U.K.’s Healthy Food Guide magazine)
As a nation, we all need to move more for the sake of our health but our best intentions are easily thwarted when we’re busy. At times it can seem hard to fit in 30 minutes a week, let alone on most days.
“The key is to find some easy, clever ways to sneak extra activity into your normal day,” says personal trainer Stuart Amory (inkilterfitness.co.uk).
“If all you want to do when you get home is slump on the sofa you’re better off finding a class that’s on your route home or looking for ways of revving up your commute. If you’re a morning person, think about what you can fit in on your way to work. Then there’s your lunch break – an exercise opportunity just waiting to happen.
“It’s no secret that our sedentary lifestyles are killing us. And if, like many people, you have a desk-bound job, you might feel there’s nothing you can do about it. However there are loads of ways you can get moving and undo some of the damage.”
Decide what time of day suits you best – before, during or after work – then follow our tips to transform your daily routine into a tailor-made fitness programme[sic].
JOIN THE WIDE-AWAKE CLUB
According to the findings of a US study presented at the 2013 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, the earliest risers and exercisers go on to be the most active for the rest of the day. For every hour people slept on after 7.30am there was a noticeable drop in activity levels.
So if you’re at your best before work, you’re lucky. Try one, or a mixture, of the following:
GET UP AND GET GOING
Try the Monday-to-Friday Morning Challenge from personal trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read. “Every morning, before your shower do 40 reps of the following exercises,” she says.
“On Mondays, squats; Tuesdays, standing wall press-ups; Wednesdays, lunges; Thursdays, tricep dips; and Fridays, side-to-side jumps.
“As you get better, you can add more reps. This kickstarts your metabolism as well as getting you in a better mindset to make healthier choices all day.”
(For more tips visit lwrfitness.com/videos-free)
USE THE COMMUTE AS WORKOUT
If you live close enough leave the car at home, pull on your trainers and walk, run or cycle to work (check out bike2workscheme.co.uk).
If it’s too far take public transport but get off a few stops earlier and walk at least a quarter of the way. “Every bit of activity counts, even walking up and down the platform while you wait for the train,” says Lucy.
TONE IN THE BATHROOM
“When you’re cleaning your teeth stand on one leg to work on your balance and core stability,” says Lucy. “Close your eyes to make it harder.
“You can also take your straight, raised leg slightly behind and to the side, then pulse it up and down to tone your buttocks. Switch legs halfway through.”
DO DESK DUTY
A recent Australian study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity shows the more you sit (over four hours per day) the higher your risk of chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes.
“Get up and walk around every 20 minutes,” says Lucy, “or just stand up and stretch. If necessary set up a prompt on your computer to remind you.”
When you’re stuck in your seat simple desk exercises are better than nothing. “Try marching your legs under your desk,” suggests Lucy, “or do calf raises, leg extensions or buttock squeezes, holding for a count of 10.”
TAKE THE STAIRS
Climbing three flights of stairs burns about 15 calories. Do that six times a day and you’ve worked off the calories in two Jaffa Cakes.
Regular stair climbing also improves bone density, aerobic fitness and levels of good cholesterol.
WALK AND TALK
Skip the conference room and invite colleagues for a stroll instead (you can record any notes on a smartphone). Rather than emailing colleagues walk to their desk to talk to them and stand up to make phone calls.
WORKING FROM HOME
Try a fitball. Replace your chair with an inflatable exercise ball to stimulate your muscles and improve your posture while you work. You’ll need to stabilise your position and straighten your spine constantly, which means you’ll stay upright, improving your core strength.
Make sure your work station is adjusted to fit the height of the ball so you can maintain good posture and protect your back.
MAKE LUNCHTIME COUNT
However short your break get up from your desk. The trick is to be prepared so you can maximise workout time.
DO A WALKABOUT
Keep trainers at work and research different routes. To rev it up vary your pace: alternate three minutes of walking as fast as you can with two minutes at a regular pace.
TEAM UP WITH WORKMATES
Stuart suggests starting a lunchtime club with colleagues, such as easy yoga. “You don’t have to get so sweaty that you need to shower,” he says, “but it beats sitting immobile at your desk with a sandwich.”
FIND A QUICK CLASS NEAR YOU
If you never make it to your gym in the evenings or weekends, switch to one close to where you work. Many chains, including Virgin Active, LA Fitness and Fitness First, recognise people don’t have a full hour to train at lunchtime, so offer shorter, high-intensity classes.
On average adults watch three to four hours of TV a day but this doesn’t have to be all sitting-down time. You could be racking up at least an hour of exercise during viewing time if you decide to move during the ad breaks.
DO THREE-MINUTE BLASTS
“Grab a big, heavy book and do chest presses,” says Lucy. “Use your stairs for step-ups or use a sofa cushion like a wobble board for squats and planks. The exercises you can do at home using your body weight are endless.”
KEEP YOUR GEAR HANDY
“Whether it’s something big such as a stationary bike or smaller kit like hand weights and resistance bands, move it to the living room,” says Stuart.
“You can watch The X Factor and burn some fat at the same time.”
This brilliant idea from Lucy gets the whole family involved in TV fitness: “Grab some sticky notes and ask the kids to choose different types of adverts, then match each to an exercise,” she says.
“Then, for example, when a car ad comes on everyone has to do as many star jumps as they can for the duration, and so on. The loser makes the next cuppa.”