As discussed in my previous blog, exercise has countless benefits. As a “life hack” strategy, using high intensity interval training can provide many of the benefits of exercise without a big time commitment. But there is a problem if we only focus on exercise. We are generally too sedentary. For example, we sit in our cars on our commutes and at our desks at work. We sit on the sofa as we watch TV, play video games, or fiddle with our phones. Somewhat hypocritically, I sit as I write this blog – DOH! It might be a bit disheartening to learn that one hour at the gym per day doesn’t necessarily make up for a sedentary lifestyle. Daily physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain physical and emotional well-being.
Our History of Daily Physical Activity
In a way, the importance of daily physical activity makes sense. Nature didn’t design us to sit for as long as we do these days. We are meant to be up and about. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would busy doing just that. Indeed, researchers estimate that our hunter-gatherer ancestors expended 3-5 times more energy per day than the typical American does now. It’s guaranteed that they didn’t sit around binge watching Breaking Bad. They didn’t sit hunched over their smartphones posting to Instagram or Facebook. We evolved to live in a world very different from the one than today’s world.
So, although it’s great to aim to exercise regularly, getting daily physical activity should also be a goal. We benefit on so many levels from having daily physical activity. The benefits of daily physical activity extend to basically all areas of life – mind, body, spirit. For instance, as Dr. Mariel Cannady posted in her recent ApaCenter blog, students have improved educational outcomes by moving more often in class.
Strategies for Getting Daily Physical Activity
Again, you don’t have to eliminate daily exercise from your routine. It’s great to exercise! But it seems that alone isn’t enough. To reap the full rewards of physical activity, it’s best that we focus on getting daily physical activity in addition to getting about 45 minutes of more focused exercise about 5 times per week. In fact, of the two, we get the majority of our benefits from daily physical activity more so than focused exercise. So, here are some ideas about how to do that.
- For every 50 minutes of sitting down, try to get up and walk for about 10 minutes at a moderate pace.
- Do household chores – vacuuming, laundry, cooking, doing the dishes, organizing closets, and so on.
- Yardwork is wonderful physical activity. Such activities include mowing the lawn, edging, pulling weeds, raking leaves, and so on.
- Go to the pool with your kids. Play with them while you are there. Don’t just fiddle with your phone!
- Go hiking with your kids, partner, or whole family.
- Play some outdoor games with your kids – catch, shoot hoop, kick the soccer ball.
- Wash the car by hand.
- Get into gardening.
- Consider using a pedometer and aim to get around 10,000 steps per day.
- When at work and chatting with colleagues, start to make a habit of walking around the building together (outdoors if possible) instead of sitting or standing.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator whenever possible.
- When you park, park far away from the destination to encourage more walking. As an added benefit, you are more likely to find a parking space!
Exercise and daily physical activity both fall in the category of low-hanging fruit. They are not a cure-all for life’s struggles. If you’ve had a rough childhood, experienced a traumatic event, had a major setback, or suffer from depression or some other condition, they will not magically make things better. However, they are likely to help. Maybe it’s only 5 or 10%, but it could be even more. They are generally free. No gym membership is required. Assuming you don’t overdo it, they are also free of side effects (aside from muscle soreness). So, even if you have some really tough struggles in life, it’s important to pick the low-hanging fruit such as daily physical activity.