By Justine Springer, Program Evaluator, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMay 1, 2015
We all know that physical activity and exercise are important for overall health. However, many people find themselves struggling to get the recommended amount of physical activity in a day. Research has shown a minimum of 10,000 steps per day is necessary maintain a healthy lifestyle. Despite these recommendations, however, many Americans are only reaching approximately 6,000 steps.
Common complaints are not having enough time to exercise with busy schedules and long workdays as reasons for why individuals do not exercise. For most, it is often hard to find an extended period of time to get physically active. The good news is that small changes can make a big difference over time. It's not necessary to get all your physical activity in one burst. Finding time in your busy day to fit in an hour or two of physical activity at one time is often unrealistic. Incorporating physical activity into your routine in shorter intervals, even a few 15-20 minutes walks, is much more manageable and sustainable in the long term. Over time, these small changes will add up toward an ultimate physical activity goal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have many suggestions as to how to incorporate physical activity into daily life. Here are some quick suggestions of things to try:
• Take a walk during lunch or other break or have a walking meeting instead of sitting in a conference room or colleague's office.
• Take a walk with the family after dinner instead of turning on the TV.
• Walk the dog instead of just letting the dog out in the yard.
• Walk up and down the soccer or football field while your child is playing instead of just sitting on the sidelines.
• Get outside and play with your children by throwing a ball around or playing tag for 10 minutes.
• Park your car in a space or location that is farther away from the office door.
Some people have had their desks converted into a standing workstation and alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
To keep things interesting, try different activities. Try hiking or biking on a local trail. Join an exercise or yoga class. Try working out to a video. Go on a skiing or snowboarding trip. In the winter, go sledding or snow tubing when it snows. In the summer, take advantage of the local pool and go swimming with the family or a friend. Play a sport, like tennis, basketball, volleyball or racquetball. The key is to pick activities that are interesting to you.
Remember, small changes add up. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Aim for at least 10-minute bouts of exercise spread out throughout the day. Smaller bouts of exercise may be more manageable and allow you to take advantage of the small breaks of time in your busy schedule.