It’s a common misconception that physical activity requires going to the gym, or buying expensive exercise equipment for your home. But the fact is there are many enjoyable everyday activities from gardening to walking your dog that can help you reach your fitness goals.
And while you may be surprised that the recommendation is higher for keeping weight off than it is for losing weight, several research studies have found this to be true. Why? Most likely there are two reasons: People are willing to reduce food intake to a greater extent during active weight loss than for the long term, and once people "get into" activity and feel the benefits, they choose to do more.
When it comes to improving your activity level, start small and adopt a new mantra: "Anything is better than nothing."
Increase your daily physical activity with a few of these suggestions, and you'll find that moving a little bit more isn't as hard as you think.
Get moving at home
Get off the couch
You've had a long day at work, dinner has been cooked and cleaned up, and you've been looking forward to watching your favorite TV show all day. Great! Use this opportunity to do a commercial-break workout. Try completing one set of 20 lunges, squats, crunches, arm circles or as many push-ups as you can per break. Repeat this for each commercial break during your show. (Even better if you're watching an hour-long program!)
Brush and squeeze
Use the time that you're brushing your teeth to squeeze your butt muscles. Hold for one count and repeat. Do this trick in the morning and at night.
Use your steps
While you can probably lug your overstuffed laundry basket to the washer in one trip, you'll burn extra calories by making multiple trips up and down the steps.
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Squat at every opportunity
Instead of thinking, "I don't feel like picking that up now," view a cluttered floor as a chance to get some leg and butt work in. Bend your knees when putting away clothes, shoes and everything else that isn't where it should be.
RELATED: 5 Weeks to a stronger lower body
Do it yourself
Around the house, try mowing your yard with an old-fashioned push mower, or take an afternoon to tend the garden or add a new coat of paint to a room or two. In the kitchen, instead of using a food processor or buying produce pre-cleaned, cut and bagged, chop fresh vegetables. And mix ingredients with a spoon using elbow grease if an electric mixer isn't necessary.
Move more at the office
The desk workout
To strengthen calf and ab muscles—and to help with your posture—sit up straight and squeeze in your stomach as you lift up on your toes to tighten your calves. Work the calf muscles further and shape up your ankles by stretching your leg and pointing your toes forward and backward 20 times, then circle your feet and ankles 20 times on each foot.
RELATED: 5 At-your-desk stretches
Whenever you pick up your phone, stand up at your desk to give your body a stretch and an energy boost. Try to keep files you use often in an overhead compartment so that you need to stand up to reach them.
Go the distance
Start using a restroom farther away from your desk. Refill your water at a fountain that's on the other side of the office. Schedule a "daily reminder" to walk a lap around your office; it's a great opportunity to meet new colleagues, and no one will know your ulterior motive.
Move before you eat
Put your snacks in the kitchen so that you have to move for food, and do a lap or two around the office before sitting down with it.
Be active while on vacation
The possibilities for aquatic exercise at the beach are nearly limitless: swimming, bodysurfing, boogie-boarding, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling and waist-deep water walking.
Want to stay dry? Grab some buckets and shovels; get to work on building a large sand castle or sculpture. All of that digging and scooping will give your arms a great workout. Make friends with your beach blanket neighbors and organize a game of beach volleyball, football or paddleball.
Ditch the car
Turn an ice cream excursion into walk with the family. Walk to a store to pick up groceries and snacks. Visit a nearby playground with your children and push them on the swings or do pull-ups on the bars.
Set mini-activity goals for yourself and try to take advantage of every opportunity to move. Use excuses like "I have to go to the mailbox," or "I need to visit the ATM" as motivation to enjoy some fresh air and walk. Change your mindset about necessary chores being something you have to do, and turn life's odd jobs into healthier lifestyle choices.