Image via Public Domain Pictures
There are millions of people in the world who know that they really should be getting more exercise, but who just find it difficult to fit the constant gym sessions into their daily routines.
But what if it was possible to get into shape, lose weight, and feel better, without any conventional exercise program, expensive home gym, or personal trainer?
In ages past, long before the internet, or even gas furnaces, it was natural for everyone to become effortlessly fit without even thinking about it. Days working the land, or, in hunter-gatherer times, stalking prey, meant that physical activity was innate. It was just something that everyone got plenty of, like it or not.
Today it takes a bit more work — but there are still ways of making physical activity, and fitness, a natural part of your life. Here are a few suggestions.
Take the stairs
“Take the stairs rather than the elevator” is probably one of the most commonly given bits of advice for people struggling to shed some pounds and improve their cardiovascular conditioning, and for good reason. It’s simple, and it works.
If you work or spend any significant portion of your time in the city, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll find yourself in high-rise buildings on a fairly regular basis, having to choose between the elevator and the stairs.
As simple (and inconvenient) as it seems, simply choosing to take the stairs more often than not can have a surprisingly positive impact on overall health and fitness. Your legs will really feel the burn, and before long you’ll be panting, with your heart and lungs getting a great workout.
Get a standing desk
One of the big new innovations in workplace furniture in recent times has been the standing desk — and it’s been a great innovation for overall health and fitness in the workplace, and in home offices, alike.
It’s well known today that sitting for extended periods of time carries with it an array of negative health consequences. In fact, it’s been reported that staying seated for a majority of your day may be even more harmful than cigarettes for the body and that it contributes massively to risk of all-cause mortality, or, dying from any cause.
Standing desks are bits of furniture which elevate your workstation to standing height, and allow you to work as normal, while on your feet. Most of them are easily adjustable so that they can be lowered back to a seated position as required (standing all day isn’t great for you either, after all) and some even include built-in treadmills so you can walk and work at the same time.
Use the Pomodoro Technique and then walk around
The Pomodoro Technique is a famous productivity hack which involves using a timer (originally a kitchen timer) to set periods of intense, all-out work focus, interspersed with small breaks in order to stay motivated and to refresh your mental energy.
The Pomodoro Technique involves working for 25-minute blocks, followed by 5-minute breaks, and is widely regarded as an excellent way of increasing focus and motivation in the office. Regardless of what kind of work you do, you’d be wise to look into using the Pomodoro Technique to give you an extra edge.
Instead of just using your 5-minute Pomodoro break to surf the web, listen to music, or check your phone, however, you’d be much better served by getting out of your chair, and going for a walk around the office, and having a good stretch at the same time.
Though walking is one of the easiest, least stressful forms of exercise out there, it’s also one of the most effective, with research finding that those who walk the most on a day-to-day basis have better health outcomes and mood overall.
Start off your day with a simple exercise routine
There’s a fantastic feeling of accomplishment and refreshment that comes with doing some exercise at the very beginning of the day. While some people may opt for intense predawn workouts, like marathon training, or driving down to the gym for a max-effort squat session, simply having a straightforward, bodyweight routine that you do every morning can be a great option.
The important thing isn’t so much pushing your body to its limits, but warming the body up, getting blood flowing and wakeful hormones produced, and, of course, establishing a routine and habit of physical activity.
Try start with something which you can complete without any real strain or trouble, and in a short time frame. For example, you could do a set of pushups, a set of bodyweight squats, and a set of star jumps, one immediately after the other, perhaps with a few gentle yoga stretches to finish.
Commute by bicycle
Cycling rather than driving isn’t just a way of saving the planet, and it’s not just a way of sparing yourself some fuel costs, either. It’s also one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways of getting some exercise during the course of your normal day-to-day routine.
Studies have found that getting people to cycle to work, with no other changes at all, resulted in massively improved health outcomes, life expectancy, and overall fitness. It also ensures that you’ll arrive at the office each morning feeling energized and fresh, instead of stumbling through the door like a zombie and dragging your feet to the coffee machine before being able to do anything productive.
Commuting by bicycle also gives you more flexibility in your routine in general. It’s one thing having to park and collect a car, nevermind drive it into the city. A bicycle, on the other hand, is easily transported and dealt with in just about context.
Do something active at least once a weekend
A pretty common routine for people to settle into is to reach the end of working week, and completely give up on the idea of doing anything even a little bit strenuous until Monday. Under this system of extreme relaxation, the weekend gets spent on sitting around, maybe going to the pub, watching TV, and doing as little as possible.
It makes perfect sense that anyone would want to relax after a busy week at work, but there’s no reason why that relaxation has to be in the form of getting as little physical activity in as possible.
Simply committing to doing something physically active, that’s also fun, once a weekend can be a tremendous step in boosting your overall fitness, and in setting habits in place that will set you in good stead, concerning your overall health and wellbeing.
This could be anything from a long hike up a mountain, to playing Frisbee with your child or significant other in the park.
Sign up to classes or activities that will get you fit by accident
The idea of getting fit for fitness’ sake is a bit weird, when you think of it, and pretty recent in general. Sure, sure, ancient Greeks spent a lot of their time at the local gymnasiums working on getting sculpted abs and powerful torsos worthy of their own marble statues, but for most of the rest of human history, people were fit because it was necessary for some activity, not because they wanted to look good or live longer.
One of the best ways of getting fit, yourself, is to mirror this ancient approach. Instead of thinking about fitness in and of itself, think of physically demanding activities that you’d enjoy, and which would get you fit as a side-effect, and then sign up to some classes or groups involving those.
If you’ve also loved table tennis, for example, sign up for a local competition. Tennis? Find a partner and visit the local courts. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to become a karate master? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from booking yourself in for an induction class.
Set “fitness triggers” around your home
When your goal is getting fit “by accident”, you want to rely as much as possible on making your fitness routine habitual and unconscious. One great way for doing this is to install “fitness triggers” all around your home, that remind you to perform a short burst of some physical activity.
One of the best examples of this would be to install a pull-up bar in the doorway leading to your kitchen and to set yourself the challenge of doing a certain number of pullups every time you enter the room.
The sky’s the limit as far as what triggers you can use. It’s all up to you.
Get a dog
Man’s best friend isn’t just a great social companion, he can also be a great personal trainer. All dogs need regular walks in order to be healthy and feel content and happy with their lives, and someone has to take them out for those walks. If you find it hard to motivate yourself to go out for walks, maybe you’ll feel differently if your furry companion is depending on you for its exercise.
If you’re really up for a fitness challenge, energetic, athletic dog breeds such as German Shepherds or Huskies will not only need regular walks but runs. Long ones.