Recruit some help. It’s always easier to stick with something when you you’re working as a team and others are counting on you to show up. Join a neighborhood running group, start a “Mommy and Me” stroller brigade, and you’ll find that the social rewards of exercising will make it something you look forward to.
Write it down. Keeping track of your daily physical activity will alert you to those times when you’re most inactive and will allow you to think of ways to change that. If you’re sluggish in the mornings, consider a brisk walk around the block to get your blood pumping. If afternoons find you slumped on the couch, save some of your physically-demanding chores for later in the day. The goal is to try to find a balance between active and inactive time.
Walk the Walk. Consider purchasing a pedometer to see how many steps you take each day. The average adult should be walking about 10,000 steps a day. That may seem like a lot, but by the time you opt for stairs instead of the elevator or park a little farther away at the grocery store, those extra steps will add up. Volunteer to walk younger children to school. If you ride the bus, get off at an earlier stop. And if you sit at a desk all day, make good use of those breaks by taking a stroll through the corridors, up and down stairs, or step outside for a breath of fresh air.
After dinner, take a family walk around the neighborhood. It’s a great time to build relationships with neighbors and catch up on the latest news.
Go back to the ‘good ol’ days.’ Sure, we love the modern conveniences that we have, but let’s face it—they’ve given us lives of ease and inactivity. Our cars are the biggest culprits. How many times have you gotten behind the wheel only to end up at the neighbor’s one block away? Keep in mind those times when you could walk or even trade your four wheels in for two (a.k.a. your bike).
While you’re at it, think of all the calories you could burn by washing your own car, shoveling snow, raking leaves, using a push lawn mower, etc. And don’t forget that the only benefit to housework isn’t just a clean house; activities like sweeping and mopping can burn up to two hundred calories an hour!
Window shop. Malls are a great place to stretch your legs. You’re in a temperature-controlled environment, you can bring the little ones in tow in a stroller, and you will always be up on the latest fashions. If you can resist the food court or the chocolate shop, a solid hour of window shopping at a brisk stroll will bring its own type of rewards.
Act Like a Kid Again. Children are some of the best examples when it comes to moving. I have an eight-year-old daughter that rarely sits still, even when watching TV. This has inspired me to keep an aerobic bike in the family room for when I actually have a few minutes to watch the latest episode of a favorite TV show. You could also use the time for stretching or lifting weights. Portable foot cycles are a great idea if you sit at a desk or computer a lot. The key is to find something active to do during the times when you’re usually inclined to do nothing.
And when you take your kids to the park, don’t just sit and watch! Get involved and push them on the swings or join them in a game of tag. You could make one of your weekly family nights a “fitness” night. Play outdoor games, go on a hike, or plan a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood.
Reward Behavior. If you’re like a lot of people, you use food as an incentive for good behavior. Unfortunately, this is not the approach to take when trying to become fit and healthy. Instead, set goals that encourage activity (e.g., a certain number of miles walked in a month or hours of active time logged) and then reward yourself with a facial or pedicure, tickets to your favorite concert, or buy that outfit at the mall that you’ve been walking by every day.
Make Fitness Fun. Exercising doesn’t have to consist of monotonous repetitions in front of a cheesy exercise video. There are numerous ways to have fun and get fit. Music is a great incentive to get up and move. Rock out for that extra boost while doing housework or just to have fun with the kids. You might consider joining in on the latest ballroom dance craze and enroll in a few classes. Take up golf, hiking, or bicycling as a hobby. Join an outdoor club, like birdwatching or treasure hunting! Even activities like gardening require more activity than you might think. Consider volunteering to coach a child’s sports team. Help out at your child’s school as a crossing guard or recess attendant. There are a myriad of ways to incorporate movement into your normal day.As you can see, a lack of a gym membership is no excuse for not being fit. And while living a more active lifestyle does require more time and energy, you’d be surprised how easy it is to incorporate a few of these simple changes into your life. If you do, before you know it, you’ll find that time is really your friend and that energy will once again be your constant companion. So get out there—and get moving!
In The News: A 2002 BBC report showed some interesting facts when comparing modern women to their counterparts in the 1950s. They found that fifty years ago, women burned three times more calories than women today. This took into consideration that five decades ago, women did an average of three hours of physical housework and walked approximately one hour to stores and back. When you consider all of the modern conveniences we now have and the prevalence of junk food, it also explains another finding: Of the 2,100 calories that the average woman consumes today, only 1/4 of that is burned off by daily activity. Compare that to those bygone days where women consumed only 1,800 calories on average and burned off 1,500 calories in their daily routines!