The first lady of the United States has a message for you: Get moving!
No doubt your doctor would agree.
Now that spring has finally sprung, we’ll no longer (we hope) be able to blame our lack of activity on snow, ice and cold.
Still, no one says you have to take up mountain biking or run a marathon. Sure, after Michelle Obama put out the word that her anti-obesity campaign Let’s Move! wanted to hear how Americans were moving, we got treated to a video of her husband and Vice President Joe Biden jogging through the White House.
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But that’s just one way to get off your derriere.
Truth is, even standing up helps. “The more little bits of movement you do, the more calories you burn,” says physician Jennifer Tieman, clinic medical director at Goppert-Trinity Family Care in Kansas City.
The dangers of sitting too much have been in the news lately. A study found that the risk of heart failure doubled for men who sat for at least five hours a day outside of work and didn’t exercise much, compared to physically active guys who sat for less than two hours a day.
“Sitting disease” is also linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and death from cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Tieman says sitting around also weakens your core muscles, the abdominals as well as those in your lower back and hips.
“Having those muscles be weak gives a lot of people issues with back pain,” Tieman says.
Even if you do the recommended 150 minutes of heart-pumping exercise a week, chances are you still spend too much time sitting, says Marianne Goulding, manager of the Center for Health Enhancement at St. Luke’s Hospital, a gym for hospital employees and the community.
“You have to say, I’m going to get more activity in. I’m going to be more conscious about it,” Goulding says. “People are habit-driven, so they’re going to do what they’ve always done until they decide to break that.”
So get moving. Here are some easy ideas.
• Plant a garden this year. Don’t forget to weed!
• Think of household chores not as drudgery but as exercise.
• Turn on some music and dance while cooking or cleaning.
• Do your dishes by hand, even if you have a dishwasher.
• Wash your car by hand instead of going through the automatic wash.
• Hide the TV remote. Or at least keep it somewhere that will require you to get up.
• At a kids sporting event, be an active spectator. Walk up and down the sidelines or around the field.
• At the grocery store, if you need just a few items, carry a basket instead of pushing a cart.
• Take advantage of technology. There are all sorts of devices and apps for personal activity, Goulding says. A Fitbit wireless activity tracker, for instance, records your steps, distance and calories burned and sends that info to your computer or smartphone. But even a basic pedometer can help. “Sometimes just wearing it increases your awareness” of how much you move, Tieman says.
• Walk your dog more. Or volunteer to walk a neighbor’s dog.
• Give your dog a bath instead of paying someone else to do it.
• If you have a sedentary job, use a break timer to remind yourself to get up, stretch, maybe walk around a bit. Find timers online (timer.onlineclock.net, for instance) and in cellphone app stores.
• At the office, instead of texting, calling or emailing a nearby co-worker, walk over to that person’s work area.
• Watch a WebMD video for other ways to move (and even get your heart rate up) at your desk, like one-minute squats and dips. Search “webmd 5-minute exercises at your desk.” YouTube also has lots of videos on this topic.
• Every time your phone rings, stand up to answer it.
• If your boss will allow it, swap out your desk chair for an exercise ball.
• When traveling, book a hotel room on a high-up floor. Then take the stairs.
• Walk on a work break or at lunch. Once you’ve gotten in the habit, walk faster.
Exercise tips came from the local experts we interviewed as well as online sources.