Strategies to be more active in a busy life
When I previously blogged about how to be active without stepping foot into a gym, every client, colleague and friend I spoke to was able to relate to the barriers of exercising and had their own strategies for being more active. In today's blog I am going to share some of their tips so that you can get more ideas about what will work for you.
Join a group
"Joining a recreational running group led by an accredited running coach has made it so much easier for me to keep active. After each training session many of us have a post-run coffee together, especially on a Sunday morning after our long runs are done. I have made lasting friendships through the group, and love the support and encouragement.
I also particularly like the accountability of group runs. When I trained solo, it was very easy to skip a training run, which then led to another run missed, and then another, and another, and so on. By committing to run with a group, I know they’re waiting for me. So if I need to skip a run, I still have to get out of bed to text someone and let them know. Usually, my biggest challenge is leaving my warm and comfy bed before dawn, so having to get up anyway to send a text means it’s just as easy to get up, put my running gear on and go for a run.
Without the accountability of a group of friends who share my love of running, as well as my love of the post-workout coffee and conversation, I know it’d be much more challenging to maintain my regular running habit."
Get organised with meals
Katie feels that the best time to exercise is in the morning. "But if you’re like me, it’s not always an option. We get up at 5.30 and leave for work about an hour later. We can’t really get up much earlier and as we live rurally (think no street lights) even if we did, it’s not the safest place to be at that hour. For that reason, after work is the time my husband and I go for a run.
However after work is also the time where our willpower is the most depleted – and when you add in the “what time will it be when we get home?” and its follow on “and how long will it take us to make dinner” aspects to the equation, it can be super tempting to forget it.
That’s why meal planning is fundamental to our exercise success. We deliberately make meals in the slow cooker or super quick to prepare meals on those nights we know we’ll be exercising, so that everything is set up well to walk in the door and have dinner ready. It’s all about removing these small obstacles to help you reach your goals. Here’s how to meal plan to make the most of this strategy."
"Getting outside and gardening provides a wealth of positive benefits that helps me overcome challenges to keeping active and is great for my physical and mental well being.
When you start a garden, whether that’s a big vegetable garden, a small container garden, or perennial landscaping, there is a certain obligation (at least in my mind) to take care of it. Getting outside and moving around is easier when living things depend on you. No one wants to see their basal wilted or their tomatoes overtaken with weeds.
Gardening doesn’t require special clothing or a lot of equipment beyond a sun hat, a shovel, a trowel, and a wheelbarrow. You don’t have to get in the car or go out in public to garden, so there are very few excuses to avoid it.
Not only is gardening a fairly easy way to stay active, studies have shown that it has benefits beyond the physical. Being outside increases mental well-being. Mycobacterium found in soil can improve brain functions and boost your mood. A Dutch study found gardening reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels, while another study found that gardening daily represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia. Plus, you end up with healthy food for your body. Not bad for digging around in the dirt."
Think about your seating habits
"On days when I am almost chained to the computer, I find my sit-stand desk invaluable for staying active. When I’m sitting I use a saddle stool, which means I have to use my core muscles to sit upright. There’s not much padding on my stool so it’s actually quite uncomfortable to be seated for extended periods of time, which is great because it reminds me to switch to standing mode. While at my standing desk, I sometimes stand on a balance cushion, although I can’t do this when I have to concentrate hard on a task. Off the cushion, I practice balance by standing on one leg while working and holding onto the foot for a deeper thigh stretch. I also do leg stretches by going up on my tip toes, either one foot at a time or both together."
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Cut Back on Alcohol
"The main way that I’ve been able to become more active is by cutting back on drinking wine. My family and I moved to Australia from the UK four years ago, and I found that for the first few years I drank more wine than usual – partly to relieve the stress and also because Australian wine tastes so good!
Drinking wine meant I was unproductive in the evenings and slow to get started in the mornings, plus when I drink I tend to eat more junk food too so my eating habits were being controlled by the wine and I wasn’t eating intentionally.
About 18 months ago, I cut right back on my drinking and now only drink occasionally. My energy levels and productivity are so much higher! It has helped me to lose a little weight but, for me, it is about the increased energy and the fact that I get fewer headaches now."
Invest in a Jogging Pram
"I found it hard to keep active while running my own business and with a toddler at home (apart from chasing them!) until I found the perfect solution – a jogging stroller!
This big stroller means I can take my toddler running with me so I have no excuse not to go for a run anymore. We both get out of the house and I get some exercise in. You can also get quite big jogging strollers so I have also taken my older child out with me at times. The other big benefit is that our jogging stroller cost quite a bit of money. This means I feel guilty if I don’t use it regularly which keeps me being active as well."
Use an activity tracker
"I work from home as a freelance graphic designer and a travel writer, so I sit at a desk all day. When I'm travelling, I have no problem staying active as I'm walking everywhere, hiking, and exploring but it's tough when at home since I don't have to leave my chair. There are no walks to the board room for meetings; no one drops by my desk to ask me to go for a coffee break or lunch --- I sit all day and work.
What I've found helps to keep me active when at home is that I wear a FitBit and have a notification set to go off every hour that tells me to move and do something physical. A reminder to get up, go downstairs, get a drink, stretch, meditate and take a break. You don't have to wear a FitBit; you can use a kitchen timer instead and set it to go off every hour.
I also have an app on my computer, set for the same interval as my Fitbit so that I can't cheat. The app forces me to take a break with a sizeable pop-up message that blocks my computer monitor and locks me out."
Rest an injury but keep training
"Everyone has a preferred way to train. Whether it be playing team sports, hitting the gym, or getting outdoors. No matter how you like to keep fit, one thing that can slow anyone down is physical injury. But don’t let injury be an excuse to stop training all-together. While training on an injured body part is not recommended, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your fitness up until it heals. One of my favorite ways to train when injured is with targeted body-weight exercises. For example, if you hurt your arm, do squats. If you rolled an ankle, try doing pushups. Another great way to train on an injury is with low impact activities such as swimming or walking. You may not get as intense a workout as usual, but anything is better than nothing. With so many options it only takes a little imagination to keep up your training while giving that body part the time it needs to heal."
"Working from home for 14 years now, I can tell you it's not always easy to keep active. In fact, I discovered that on myself 3 years ago when I have a lower back crisis that kept me in bed for days. It was awful! I couldn't do anything. More than that, I wasn't able to work – for a long while, as the recovery wasn't fast!
I had to go to physical therapy for weeks and then to continue at home for at least 6 months. This way, I learned that I need to include physical activity in my daily routine. So I did – scared that a second crisis would happen. It didn't and I hope it'll never happen.
Sometimes, you need a cold shower to understand how important keeping active really is! Now, I exercise daily - not for hours, but enough to take care of my body and its health. That wake-up call was enough for me and I hope my lesson will help others from getting into the same situation."