The Importance of Daily Activity

( The Volunteer Firefighter )

Americans are becoming increasingly more sedentary. At our jobs, what were once physical tasks are becoming more automated and many of us spend eight to 10 hours a day seated in front of a computer.

For our children, lack of activity is just as bad. Not only have gym classes been reduced to 30 minutes a couple times a week, but after-school activities consist more of video games and TV than of bike rides and playing outdoors with friends. Even if you are lucky enough to have some physical activity built into your day, it is rarely enough to provide the cardiovascular and health benefits we need.

So, what if you are ready to make an investment in physical activity, but don’t have the time, or money (or interest) to join a gym or commit to a formal training program? The good news: you can get the amount of activity you need to support an efficient metabolism, cardiovascular health and disease prevention – all while doing things you love.

Make Physical Activity Part of Every Day

It is important to recognize that there are literally thousands of ways that you can incorporate meaningful activity into your day – every day. So, choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Don’t choose activities that you don’t like, can’t physically do, or that cause physical or emotional distress. Choose something you love – or something that you have always wanted to try … even if you aren’t that great at it out of the gate.

Look for opportunities in your existing schedule. Do you spend a lot of time sitting or standing in one place while at work? Build in some stationary exercises or take a walk on your breaks. Are you a captive audience at your kids’ after-school practices? Get involved in practice drills or even take that time to do your own workout by walking/ jogging around the field.

Have time to play with the kids, walk the dog, do some yard work? Upping the intensity of these activities will also provide you with ample opportunity to rev up that metabolism.

Think outside of the box. Keep it interesting by trying something different on alternate days. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Aim for at least two hours of cumulative activity each week. Ideally, sessions should be least 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-to- high intensity (get your breathing heavily and breaking a bit of a sweat). But aim for at least 10 minutes of activity at a time. If you do opt for shorter sessions, be sure to keep the intensity high.

You never know when/where an opportunity to get in physical activity may arise, so be prepared. Keep some comfortable clothes and a pair of walking or running shoes in the car and at the office.

Buddy Up!

Perhaps the best way to build activity into your day is to have a buddy(s). Find a buddy at work who shares your goals, who will keep you motivated on days where you want to just lounge in the break room instead of going for a walk.

At home, recruit your kids, spouse or your dog to keep your activities fun and at high intensity. You may even find joining a group helps you keep on track, especially if you find a specific activity or sport that you really love. Physical activity is often more fun with a partner … especially when friendly competition is involved.

At Home …

• Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.

• Push the baby in a stroller. Alternate between jogging and walking and choose a path with hills.

• Take a bike ride with your kids. Spend more time peddling than coasting.

• Have a competition with your kids (or friends) on an active video game (boxing, dancing, cycling or other active games).

• When you take the kids sledding in the winter, join in. Walking up the hill in the snow burns a lot of calories!

• Shovel snow instead of using snow blower when there is less than a foot (make sure to lift with legs and contract abdominals).

• Dance!

• Walk the dog, don’t just watch the dog walk.

• Walk/Jog around the field/court/gym while watching the kids play or practice.

• Coach your child’s sports teams and actively participate in drills.

• Clean the house, wash the car, etc. … Household chores can burn a lot of calories if you do them with intensity and minimal break time.

• Walk, skate or cycle more – and drive less.

• Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.

• Mow the lawn with a push mower.

• Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.

• Play with the kids – tumble in the leaves, build a snowman, splash in a puddle or dance to favorite music.

• Put in a workout or dance video and get moving.

At Work …

• Get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way.

• Park farther away from the front door and take a few extra steps. Better yet—walk around the parking lot once before going inside.

• Take the stairs instead of an elevator.

• Replace a coffee/cigarette break with a brisk 10-minute walk. Ask a friend to go with you.

• Take part in an exercise program at work or a nearby gym.

• Join the office softball team, basketball team, kickball team or walking group.

• Incorporate stationary and dynamic exercises at your workstation. Deskercize Therabands, body weight exercises and under-desk cycles or steppers are a great way to keep active when stuck at your workstation.

Play More …

What did you love doing as a kid or what sport have you always wanted to try? Take a class, join a league or just do it on your own or with family and friends. Why not start now?

• Walk, jog, skate or cycle.

• Swim or do water aerobics.

• Take a class in martial arts, dance or yoga.

• Golf (pull cart or carry clubs).

• Canoe, row or kayak.

• Play racquetball, tennis or squash.

• Ski cross-country or downhill.

• Play basketball, softball or soccer.

• Take a hike/snowshoe in nature.

Most important: have fun while being active!

Kelli LaPage is the Vice Chair of the FASNY Health and Wellness Committee and the President and Founder of WellTrail, Inc. She specializes in working with groups and individuals through habit creation and change to support healthier lifestyles. You can contact her at klapage@welltrail.com for more information.