We all know exercise is good for us. Most of us also know we don’t get enough of it. Even so, I was surprised to read that getting us all active would apparently save twice as many lives as getting us all slim.
Up until maybe our grandparents’ generation, people didn’t have to think about taking exercise because they didn’t have a choice: my grandfather, for example, walked to school every day as a child, not because he wanted to but because a car was an unimaginable luxury. Because having to make a point of exercising is historically new to us, we don’t have any cultural norms about it the way we do about washing our hands or potty-training our children. Not only that, but we’re so used to machines doing physical work for us – from cars to lawnmowers to washing machines – that we underestimate how much exercise we need. We tend to feel virtuous if we take a short stroll a couple of times a week, even though that doesn’t make us anywhere near active enough.
Even if we do want to exercise, though, we often have desk jobs, indoor family lives and sedentary hobbies. Who has the time to get proper exercise every day?
Well, these ideas might help. I can’t promise they’ll take no time out of your day at all, but they should be fairly quick:
Work: as I’ve said before, I think it’s a great shame that we spend so much of our lives working. But if that’s unavoidable, let’s try to make the best of a bad lot:
- Use a program like Big Stretch. These tell you to take a break every 20 minutes or so. Give it a go – I got used to the distraction after a few days. You might even find you work faster with a reminder that 20 minutes has passed, instead of the hours slipping by without you noticing.
Transport: this is a golden opportunity to get some exercise!
- Park further away from your destination. This adds a walk to the end of a car journey.
- Walk or cycle short distances. This tip isn’t going to win any prizes for originality, but it’s a good one. You may not be lucky enough to live somewhere bike-friendly, but walking is almost always an option.
- Walk or cycle part of the way for longer distances. This might also save you a bit of money on transport costs.
- Get on public transport later, or off it earlier. That way you still get a bit of a walk in, hopefully without adding too much time to your journey.
- Take a longer route. Walking 200 yards to the shops isn’t going to do you much good, but taking a longer route to the same place just might.
Housework and other chores: most of us find these boring and time-consuming. The first of these two tips might even make them more interesting:
- Put some energetic music on. Nothing relaxing! If you find yourself dancing around while you’re hanging out the washing or tidying up, that’s a step in the right direction. You might get your chores done faster, too.
- Do things by hand. I once read on an otherwise great blog that dishwashers are terrible because they prevent you from having the proper, meaningful experience of washing each dish. I don’t buy that: I mean, of all the billions of people throughout history who’ve washed dishes, how many have found spiritual enlightenment that way? However, what certainly is true is that the more things you do by hand the more you’ll boost your activity levels.
Getting about wherever you are: this is the most open-ended section:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift. Again, unoriginal, but still a good idea.
- Walk faster. You get more exercise, and you get to where you’re going faster.
- Don’t go to the nearest toilet, coffee machine or whatever. The many short walks to one a bit further away will all add up.
At the end of the day, we need to remember that we don’t have to use things just because they’re there. Even if there’s a lift, we can take the stairs. Even if there’s a bus stop outside our office, we can walk to the next one. Even if we have a car, we can walk. Mod cons are supposed to increase our options, not decrease them. You’re the one who controls your actions.