By Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN
I get it. Sometimes we just need to rest and recharge and put all those ambitious exercise goals on the back burner. Relaxation is a necessary part of health that lowers stress and enhances our immunity, but it’s important to strike a balance between physical activity and recovery.
Too much inactive time is linked to increased risk of most health conditions including obesity, heart disease, stroke, hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even some cancers. Lack of movement even affects our mental health with increased risk of anxiety and depression and contributes to fatigue and brain fog. Health experts unanimously agree that excess sedentary time is harmful. Even those who exercise 30 minutes daily are still at increased health risk if the remainder of the day is spent mostly sitting.
Unfortunately, just knowing these things often isn’t enough to get us moving. Research shows that most Americans do not meet the minimum recommendation for 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity weekly. It’s worth noting that physical activity includes both planned exercise – defined as movement for the purpose of health – and general movement performed as part of our daily activities – referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. Many individuals are not aware of the benefit of incorporating move movement throughout the day or they underestimate the value of this type of activity in helping to meet physical activity recommendations known to reduce health risks.
So, what are we to do? First and foremost, physical activity needs to be performed within one’s ability. Do what makes sense for your current fitness level, which will increase over time. Tracking daily movement, either by using a fitness tracker or logging active time manually, are necessary for monitoring and to raise awareness. The process of behavior change can be daunting. We tend to crave the comfort of routine and any disruption can seem like more trouble than it’s worth. A simple way to go about changing your routine is by taking it one step at a time. Look at your current lifestyle and brainstorm where you might easily boost your activity level. Five minutes here or 10 minutes there will really add up over the course of the day and week. Although 150 minutes weekly is the minimum recommended goal, the more we move the greater the benefit.
Simple ways to increase physical activity:
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator or try walking up and down the stairs a few extra times.
- Walk an extra loop around the parking lot before getting in your car.
- Speed up your pace from a leisurely stroll to a brisk walk to get your heart rate up.
- March or jog in place while watching TV or during commercials.
- Do squats, lunges or wall push-ups while waiting for the kettle to boil.
- Make extra trips when unloading packages from the car.
- Walk up and down the driveway a few extra times when bringing in the newspaper or mail.
- Think of housework and yard work as opportunities for physical activity.
- Put on some dance music and shake your bootie for both a mental and physical boost.
The opportunities are endless. It really is simple to fit more activity into your day once you set your mind to it and pick a strategy to follow. Don’t waste time worrying about what you can’t do or what you think you should do. The most important thing is to just keep moving. Move your way. Just move.
Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist who takes great pride in helping our Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients achieve their health and weight loss goals.