The other day, I was telling my daughter the story of how I managed to fall up the stairs. It was an ordinary day in primary school, I was about 10 or 11, and I was running up the stairs to class when I tripped on a step, flew upwards and landed on my chin…
And as I told her the story I paused. I can’t remember when last I actually ran up the stairs. These days any stair climbing is more of a slow, steady plod, and if there are several flights, the plodding might be punctuated by a bit of leaning on a banister to catch my breath.
As a child and university student, being active was easy – and I didn’t even play much sport. But I walked to school, rode my bicycle all over Grahamstown as a student, always ran up and down the stairs, and was mostly in pretty good shape.
But once you start to drive and work in an office, suddenly that all comes to an end. And before you know it, your life consists of more sitting than standing. You sit in your car, sit at your desk, come home after work and sit on the couch to watch TV.
Yes, you could join a gym, but gym fees may not be affordable for everyone, and gym really doesn’t do it for everyone. Sometimes I wonder if we really need to be training and tracking and monitoring our progress so formally. Somehow exercise has become this siloed thing that has to be part of your schedule, when really, human bodies are made to move, and movement should be a natural part of everyday life.
We’ve all read those tips about parking our cars further away from the mall entrance, and taking the stairs instead of the lift. And those are all good things to do. But there are some other ways you can build more movement into your life without formally exercising – in much the same way as I did as a child and young adult.
- Use public transport for your commute. If you don’t need your car while you’re at work, and you have access to bus and/or train routes, this makes you more active. You have to walk to the bus or train stop, stand around waiting, and walk to work on the other end. And you’ll be doing your bit towards easing traffic congestion too.
- Fidget. Ignore what you parents and your teachers told you. Tap your feet. Shift in your seat. Wriggle. Play the drums on your desk with a pen. Researchers in an Iowa State University study found that people who frequently fidget, stand up and walk around can burn 300 more calories a day than their stationary counterparts.
- Walk and talk. Invest in a portable phone for your desk and make a rule that if you get a voice call either through the switchboard or on your cell phone, you have to stand up to have the conversation. Strolling while talking on the phone can help you move towards that 10 000 steps a day goal – buy a pedometer and track your progress if you think it will help.
- Moving meetings. Meetings often take longer than they should – why not suggest that participants stand instead of sitting, or that the group attending the meeting conducts it while you all take a walk? Instead of meeting friends or brunch on the weekends, why not suggest a leisurely stroll in a beautiful place? Just because those kinds of activities usually involve sitting down doesn’t mean they always have to.
- Dance. You don’t have to wait to be invited to a club or a wedding to get down and bust some moves. All you need is some music and you can host a dance party in your kitchen. Put on your favourite upbeat songs and dance while you do household chores. Challenge your family to a dance-off. I even know a guy who works in a communications agency who’s known for the dance moves he pulls off at his desk when something goes well in his day. You might not be able to get away with that if you’re at your company’s board meeting, but if you hear a song that makes your toes tap, why not get up and dance?
Finally, whenever you can, walk instead of driving. Why drive to the garage shop to buy milk when you could easily take a 10-minute walk and get some fresh air at the same time. Play soccer or cricket with some friends. Throw a ball for your dogs.
Your body was made for movement. Don’t confine it to a life of sitting down when just a few small changes, combined with some creativity, can transform your life into one that’s filled with activity and fun.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.