‘Fit’ing it in: Five ways you can sneak a little exercise into your day
Ryan Summerlin September 18, 2012
When you think about it, “time” is just a word we use in an attempt to make sense of the universe we live in and how it operates. But that doesn’t stop us from saying “I don’t have time” whenever something comes up that we don’t want to do, or would rather not do in favor of doing something else. According to a New York Times article that ran this February, the main reason Americans give for not exercising is that they simply don’t have the time. Luckily for those lacking in time, new studies have shown that short, intense periods of exercise can be as beneficial as exercising at moderate levels for a longer period of time.
Danita Chirichillo, fitness supervisor and personal trainer at the Avon Recreation Center, is also in favor of shorter, high-intensity workouts.
“With short bursts and interval types of workouts, you’ll burn fat and make the heart pump even stronger,” Chirichillo said.
With time being one of the main barriers for getting people to workout, exercise programs have adapted a “more results in less time” philosophy, creating moves designed to strengthen multiple muscle groups while also raising your heart rate. Chirichillo recommends that everyone, no matter what their age or activity level, should engage in some type of moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes every day to stay healthy.
While 20 minutes a day might not help you lose significant amounts of weight or make you look like the “after” in a commercial for gym equipment, a little can still go a long way. Physical activity could help you sleep better, improve your mood, reduce stress and help you feel better overall. Why not give it a try? Take that “I don’t have time” excuse and put it to use elsewhere, like cleaning the house or organizing old tax files.
Here are five moves or ways to fit in some fitness, making the most of the little time we’ve got to focus on the physical each day.
Holding your body in a plank position (chest facing the floor, arms outstretched and legs straight as though you’re in the starting position of a push-up) targets not only your abdominal muscles but also your glutes, hamstrings quads, shoulders and arm muscles.
“(Plank) is a move that will work your entire body from top to bottom,” Chirichillo said.
At first, try holding the plank for 30 seconds, until you can do it for a full two minutes. Once you have the basic position down, you can build on the move by raising one leg or an arm, using weights, etc.
“Most people hate (burpees) for a reason, because they’re hard,” Chirichillo said.
Love ’em or loathe ’em, burpees (also known as squat thrusts) are one of the most effective moves one can do, because it combines strength training with aerobics. Start in a standing position, then jump down into a squat with your knees and place your hands on the floor, moving into a plank. Do a push up then immediately return to a squat position and back to a standing position. Jump as high as you can. Repeat this sequence in a fluid motion for as many reps as you can, or try doing burpees for 20 seconds and increasing your time as you improve.
3. Workout while at work
Changing up your workspace a great way to follow the advice of Olivia Newton John and “get physical” while at your cubicle. While there’s still some debate about whether sitting on an exercise ball is better than using a chair, having one handy gives you the chance improve your balance and work your abdominal muscles while doing what your boss is actually paying you to do. Another option is to convert your sitting desk to a standing one. Recent research suggests that sitting for significant periods of time can decrease the production and circulation of lipoprotein lipase, a molecule that deals with processing fat. In July the online journal BMJ Open published a study from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., which found that sitting for more than three hours a day can cut one’s life expectancy by a full two years.
“When you’re sitting and completely inactive, this is when you run into trouble managing blood glucose,” said lead researcher Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “Try to stand as much as you can. Typically when you’re on the telephone you can stand with speaker phone. Instead of emailing someone in the office, just get up and go talk to them.”
4. Reverse it
On the flip side, standing all day can also cause aches and pains. Chirichillo said those who have a job that requires them to stand or move certain muscles repeatedly should focus on working the “sister muscles.” If you have hunched, tight shoulders from leaning or lifting all day, try some exercises that strengthen the back muscles to counteract the overused muscles on your front side. Chirichillo also suggests doing a reverse lunge (stepping back into a lunge rather than forward) while brushing your teeth at night.
“(Reverse lunge) is always a good move because some people have sore knees, and it helps keep the knees in alignment better than a forward lunge,” Chirichillo said.
5. When in doubt, walk
Anyone can walk anywhere at anytime. Taking a short stroll sounds simple, but choosing to stride rather than drive can help you move miles without even realizing it. Walking is the one exercise that doesn’t require equipment or practice. According to the Mayo Clinic, brisk walking can reduce the risk of heart attack just as much as jogging can. When walking make sure to maintain proper posture, monitor your heart rate, and set realistic goals that you can work, or walk, towards. Chirichillo suggests adding sprints or lunges so that your body doesn’t get complacent with the same old treadmill drill.