Health and Fitness

Simple ways to add exercise to your day

Between work, family responsibilities, errands and commuting, it's hard to find enough time to sleep, let alone exercise. We start every New Year's Day with a determined vow that this will be the year we hit the gym and get in shape, only to lose momentum by February and cancel the membership by April.

Despite the best of intentions, the willpower and the motivation, these resolutions usually fail. Why? Because radical life changes aren't realistic or practical. Guilt and embarrassment only perpetuate the problem. The solution is to add small, measurable and attainable goals to your daily routine. Try to begin with one or two of the following ideas, and then build on them. Though changes to your waistline might be slower than you'd like, the long-term impact will be substantial, both for your health and for your physique.

Take Just a Few Steps More

Try to add just a few more steps every day. Walking up three or five flights of stairs to your office is probably too much to begin with. However, parking your car at the back of the lot or one level higher in the garage is reasonable. If you started simply, but consistently, parking your car farther away from work, stores and shopping centers, you could add hundreds of steps to your day, burning calories without much time or effort. This could then extend to parking on the side of the mall opposite to the store you wish to visit or even walking to the corner store after dinner. If exercise becomes blended with the tasks you are already doing, it ceases to be extra effort.

Go Low-Tech

Once a week, give the dishwasher a break and hand-wash your dishes. Skip the leaf blower and rake instead. Wash the car yourself instead of going through the gas station car wash. Scrub the kitchen floor without a mop. Part of the reason folks were thinner 20 or 30 years ago was because chores were, well, actual physical work. Going low-tech once or twice a week will not only get you moving but can be fashionably retro as well!

Explore

Skip the movies and take the kids to the park to play catch this weekend. Feed the ducks instead of going out for coffee. Dance in your living room. Take a walk downtown and window shop. Combine your fun time with a bit of movement, and you won't even notice you are exercising.

Movement sparks life. It promotes healthier physical functioning, a better immune system, increased energy and a more positive mood. You don't have to uproot your routine to start becoming healthier. If you were to do even a few of the suggestions above, you could burn an additional few thousand calories a week. Without any changes in your diet, that alone could equal a half-pound-per-week weight loss. That's over 20 pounds this year with just a few minutes of effort throughout the day. With a plan this easy and fun, exercise can seamlessly become part of your life.

By Ophelia Austin-Small