How to keep active?
June 30, 2010 7:20 AM   Subscribe

I need small ways of incorporating physical activity into my daily life. Any ideas?

I go to the gym 4 times a week and burn about 500 cals every time. Besides doing that, I'm a slob. I have an office job and get home to eat, read, play risk or sleep. My husband spends all day working at a very physically demanding job, so he does have a reason to rest in the afternoons.

I find, however, that being so inactive for long periods of time makes me jumpy, anxious and ill-humored, so I would like to start actually moving, but I don't know how to begin.

I am also asking for activities I could do with my husband on weekends, alone, during a short break at work or for longer periods of time. It really worries me that I will become a couch potato, and our future kid will follow our lead.

I don't really want "exercise routines", just things I can add to my daily life without feeling like I'm exercising. I've thought about joining a dance class, for example.

What do you do to keep active? Do you go for a walk on your lunch break? Were you able to keep the habit for long?
posted by Tarumba to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Could you possibly bike to work? I do and it's great.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:25 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

A simple way to get active is to join a team; both ultimate frisbee and soccer are excellent team sports with inexpensive entry and teams with every skill level.

If joining a team is too much of a commitment, then there are always things like biking or walking to work, running clinics, hiking nearby trails. On weekends, canoe or kayak on a river, or go to the beach and throw a frisbee.

Go outside :)
posted by axismundi at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2010

I ride my bike. Even for a little spin through the neighborhood or down to the cinema.

I live in a very walkable neighborhood and walk to anything that I can get to within 20 minutes or less unless I have to take something heavy/bulky with me or pick up same. I've even considered getting a rolling cart so I could do those things by foot as well - much like I did as a kid in Chicago.

A friend of mine took up pole dancing and LOVES it. She even went so far as to order/install a pole in her apartment.

Another friend has taken up geo-caching.

In strange little ways I bring physical activity into my work day, but remember I work from home:

I wake up and stretch (mostly because I get very stiff after being still for any length of time) and do some form of crunches right from my bed.

When I walk to the kitchen from my office I do exaggerated soldier walking. Lifting my knees as far as they will go.

When I had a dog I would take him for nice long walks through the neighborhood.

If I am alone in the car I'll park far from the entry of where I need to be and walk the expanse happily.

If my knees aren't bothering me I'll take the stairs.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2010

I prefer to work out in the morning before work, but one of my coworkers has a daily habit of the lunchtime walk - we get an hour, she walks for 45, then comes back and eats her lunch in 15 minutes. If it's pouring or a blizzard she doesn't go, but otherwise she brings a sweatshirt and sneakers and goes every day. She seems to really look forward to it.
posted by hungrybruno at 7:33 AM on June 30, 2010

Walk. Set up something you can make into a routine - buy the paper/groceries, visit a friend or go to a certain bench/cafe and read for a while. Don't go for convenience, pick somewhere out of your way and walk there and back daily but make sure there is a reason. It will help you stick to it.
posted by fire&wings at 7:35 AM on June 30, 2010

I have an office job and get home to eat, read, play risk or sleep...

Buy a cheap exercise bike and read while you pedal.

I am also asking for activities I could do with my husband on weekends...

Go for long walks together. It doesn't have to be fast-paced or strenuous, just getting out in the fresh air and moving around will do wonders.
posted by amyms at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2010

Before I started walking to and from work seven years ago, I regularly took half hour walks on my lunch break. Even in urban areas, there are often pleasant places to walk and recharge one's physical and mental batteries.

For me, in my environment (near the city core with good sidewalks and level mixed-use trails), walking and bicycling are obvious choices to be active as part of everyday life. I run most of my errands on foot or bicycle, with backpack or panniers or reusable cloth bags.
posted by thatdawnperson at 7:37 AM on June 30, 2010

Replace mechanized activities with bodily effort. Bike or walk rather than drive, take the stairs rather than the elevator. Walk to someone's office rather than picking up the phone.

These are probably the biggies, and you'd be amazed how many times a day you'll find the opportunity to make these switches. Going out to grab a sandwich for lunch? Walk to the deli. Need to talk to Accounting on the 8th floor? Stairs. A whole lotta little exertions really add up over the course of a day, a week, a month. (I've known several people who said that when they worked in a large place that required lots of walking back and forth, they lost weight without particularly trying to, then put on weight when they worked in a more "convenient" building.)
posted by Quietgal at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would recommend walking on lunch break. I try to do this two or three times a week, and a walk around the block here takes about 30 minutes. I just bring comfy shoes and get a good clip going, but not so much that I sweat overmuch and would have to change back at the office. I listen to podcasts or just take the time to think about a project I'm working on or plan out my afternoon.

I also have a workmate that I will occasionally walk with in the late morning or mid-afternoon. Just a quick 20 minute walk down to the coffee shop and back, or even around the building a few times. Admittedly, on hot days, sometimes we just walk to the convenience store and get popsicles or a cool drink and enjoy while we walk around the building, slowly.

It's easy to do because it doesn't (necessarily) need any special equipment other than comfy shoes, and doesn't depend on getting somewhere for a particular time like a lunch time fitness class would. Just take a break when your workload permits and get out there.

My boyfriend and I do occasional walks on the weekend - he's lucky enough to live close to a duck pond and most of our shopping destinations, so we walk to get groceries or just out for an hour in the late morning before we get going for the day. We will sometimes go to the local gardens or conservation area and feed the birds and chipmunks since we have to walk on the trails to get to the feeding locations, which is also great fun with our nieces (and if you get in the habit is something you can include the little ones in your life in - there are very few things cuter than little kids feeding animals).
posted by Cyrie at 7:42 AM on June 30, 2010

Buy a pedometer. Try for 10,000 steps a day.
posted by PickeringPete at 7:43 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm going to join the walking bandwagon here. It's great. Since my bikes were stolen in the spring (yes, two, it sucked) I've been doing a lot of walking paired with bus riding.
While it may not make sense/be possible for you to walk to work, there is likely something you could make it a habit to walk or bike to.

I really enjoyed when I saw it posted on the blue the other day. It's am exercise routine, which I know you aren't looking for, but it's also a zombie preparedness tool. Build your core and you'll endurance and you'll not have your braaaaaains eaten. So, if the zombie thing has amy appeal, you might be able to trick yourself into 'working out' two or three times a week.
posted by bilabial at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2010

I sit on an exercise ball at work. Great for your abs and back, and it keeps me alert and active all day long.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 7:54 AM on June 30, 2010

Yoga is great for this: it's work, but you come out of it feeling so relaxed that you forget it's work. Take a few classes, and you can learn to do sun salutations at home or work on your posture while you're sitting at your desk or walking around.

For those anxious periods of inactivity (I get those too), just a little bit of small but intense activity helps a lot. Ten pushups works. Getting a doorway pull-up bar for home is a good idea, too - I can't do a pull-up yet, but I'll go and dangle and try for a while. If you're not at home, ducking into a bathroom stall and doing some squats or pushups against the wall helps.

I take public transportation to work, but it's not ultra-convenient, so I end up walking about one and a half miles each way. If that's an option and you have the time, it's a pretty mindless way to add some activity to your daily routine.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:03 AM on June 30, 2010

Is there any way you can work in another gym workout, something that's totally different from your usual? Yoga, group exercise classes (I was shocked to find I loved kickboxing), weights?

Also nthing biking both as a commute and as weekend fun with a partner - last weekend we biked out to a kayak rental place and paddled around for awhile, then biked home. It was a delight.

Stairs at work - use the bathroom on another floor if you can.

Turn cleaning into (for me, goofy) exercise - balance on one foot while doing dishes, do sweeping with squats thrown in -- get innovative!
posted by ldthomps at 8:18 AM on June 30, 2010

If you're a numbers nerd, then do as PickeringPete suggests and get a pedometer. Not even a fancy one, just something simple. Then, when you're implementing some of the other suggestions (walking your errands around the building, walking at lunchtime, parking at the far side of the parking lot, taking the stairs, etc) you'll be seeing a measure of how much more you're moving. (The alarming thing for me was the first couple of days, when you "act normal" to find out what baseline you're trying to improve from - it was appallingly low!!)
posted by aimedwander at 8:20 AM on June 30, 2010

My SO and I play disc golf on weekend mornings. It doesn't feel like exercise, both because realistically it isn't much and because it's a lot of fun. It gets us outdoors for what amounts to a long leisurely walk. The initial financial investment is about $20-$30 for the three basic types of discs you'll want to start out with. They sell discs at regular sporting goods stores and sometimes at "pro shops" at courses, and there are courses everywhere. If you get into it, the disc golf community is large, enthusiastic, and extremely kind and welcoming to beginners.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:31 AM on June 30, 2010

Nth-ing the "replace mechanized conveniences with bodily effort." (FYI: I run 10-20 miles per week, depending on what else is going on in my life, but I keep from going totally crazy if I can't run by taking the stairs, getting off my bus when I'm only halfway home, carrying my groceries in baskets instead of pushing the grocery cart, etc.) I work in a huge complex of buildings, so I'm pretty much always walking somewhere at work, and I don't really stay seated for more than an hour at a time. If you have a desk job, the sitting-on-a-ball is a good idea. I had a friend who had a lot of back issues, and sitting on the ball helped her build her core strength back up.

I have a minor hyperactivity problem, which I never grew out of, so I fidget like a toddler and pretty much need to be doing something all the time. If I have alone time, I like to play music really loud and dance like a fool. I'm a terrible dancer, so I will only do it if I'm alone or drunk, but it's really fun and burns ridiculous calories. Or I rough-house with the dog, or practice my velociraptor impersonation (don't laugh, it is strenuous!), or I just jump up and down repeatedly until I am a little bit calmer. If none of these activities appeal to you, maybe you could get a jump rope? Jumping definitely is good exercise.

Also, what do you do on your days off? Can you replace some of your sedentary weekend activities with more active activities? For example, go to the park or a swimming pool on a hot summer day instead of going to the movies. Other fun things to do that don't feel like exercise include walking around the fun parts of town (I like to go window shopping in the expensive shopping district -- I can't afford to buy any of the clothes, but they're fun to look at and I usually cover a few miles when I go there), or volunteering as a dog walker at a local shelter (get exercise, play with cute dogs, and maybe help to save some of their lives!). Maybe play some more physical games with your husband -- my husband and I have epic sparring matches when we get bored. Sometimes in the winter we have snowball fights; I fully intend on getting us some Super Soakers this summer. If play-fighting is too violent for you, you could play Twister. If you have a yard, it's always fun to play bocce or croquet or badminton. Or maybe see if there's some kind of pick-up soccer game or other informal activity in your neighborhood -- in my neighborhood there's a weekly pick-up soccer game which my husband really enjoys. He comes home totally sweaty and exhausted, but if you're playing soccer with your friends and talking trash for 2 hours, it doesn't feel as much like exercise as spending 2 hours on the treadmill.

In general, I find that the sort of exercise you can do at home or outside is a lot easier to maintain and doesn't feel as much like a chore as exercise done at the gym. It's much nicer to go for a real bike ride than it is to ride the exercise bike; similarly, it's much more fun to run or walk outside than use the treadmill, even if it's cold or rainy.
posted by kataclysm at 8:42 AM on June 30, 2010

I've been having lower back problems from extended sitting for regular 10-12+ hour workdays at busy times, and I've converted to working at a stand-up desk. It's just my normal work desk with some taller legs added. My back no longer hurts, and though it's hard on the feet at points, being at work feels considerably less sedentary than it did.

The first week or so was tough, but my legs adapted pretty quickly.

Idthomps - I also sometimes do (ridiculous) things like one-legged washing up. Grocery bags are another trick for a bit of goofy walking home with them held as far away from your body as you can, or doing shoulder shrugs, or even the odd bicep curl with them.

You need to have a fairly high tolerance for looking like a nerd with some of this stuff...but it can make otherwise mundane tasks a little bit more interesting!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:44 AM on June 30, 2010

What's your work day like? Mine involves long conference calls, and I try to keep myself engaged and focused by doing pushups and situps. I'm wearing a headset (or i use speakerphone), and I mute in case of any grunting. :). It only takes a minute.
posted by salvia at 9:15 AM on June 30, 2010

if you can do it, biking to work is indeed an amazing way to get regular exercise. for a ride of about 5 miles (each way) I find that it's not much longer than driving, and the same time as taking the bus. there's something to be said for getting exercise in time that you weren't going to get to use for anything else anyway.

additionally, biking together is a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, if you can settle on a comfortable pace.
posted by epersonae at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2010

The pedometer's awesome at encouraging movement - if you have one of the new wee ipods, it's pedometer function is pretty accurate, and the cheap pedometers you can get at any big box stores run about maybe 10$. I have dragged my tired rear out the door to walk to the library many times just because the daily step count was too low.

For weekend activities, perhaps indoor rock climbing? It's not so much of a 'gym' environment, it's lots of fun, it's not monotonous and you get to start moving in ways that are completely new. If you and your husband both sign up, you can belay each other and do top-roping (climbing with a rope with harnesses - this is more climbing in a straight line to the top with varying difficulty), or if you sign up by yourself you can boulder (climbing singly, no harness, going no higher than 10-12 feet with crash mats - this is more along the lines of balance and problem-solving with your body on different routes). It's also one of those sports that lots of kids seem to like, at least going by the happy screaming in the climbing gyms I've been to.
posted by zennish at 10:09 AM on June 30, 2010

Agreeing with others here about how to add a bit of physical activity during the day (taking the stairs, walking instead of phoning, etc). Plus: some years ago I realized that I envied smokers that they got to get outside for 10 minutes or so every couple of hours. So, I decided to begin taking "smokers breaks": every couple of hours I go outside and take a walk around the block. It is really nice to get some fresh air and to get out of the office (I do work place thinking on those walks) and, of course, to get some exercise.
posted by Pineapplicious at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2010

Do you live in a place that has room for a garden? Gardening activities can run the gamut from very strenuous (double-digging a bed, for example) to just putzing around deadheading the dahlias, but will always going to be more active than flumping on the sofa, gets you outdoors, can provide a source of wonderful fresh produce, and makes a great change of pace for those of us who spend 99% of our time indoors.
posted by Kat Allison at 10:10 AM on June 30, 2010

I am an urban ranger,
I walk, it's what I do.
The city is my wilderness,
Sky scrapers are my trees.
I hang my thoughts on lamp posts,
And park my dreams in metered spots.
I populate the empty lots
With my good ghosts,
And invest the pavement
with diamond recollections.
Exertions are my exercise,
My labors for effect.
I walk to go and go to walk.
I walk to work and work that I might walk.
I walk to dream up orders
For my servile sitting self.
No stagnant sedentary thoughts
Shall rule this life.
But who knows what's for what.
I sure walk a hell of a lot.
posted by mecran01 at 11:41 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most of my lunch breaks at work I get out of the office and go for a short walk. In the winter, I bring soup in a thermos that I can drink out of while on my walk. In the summer, I have fresh fruits and veggies in a little plastic bag so I can nibble while I walk. I get some funny looks, occasionally, but it's nice to get out of the office while still being able to have lunch.

How walkable is your neighborhood? Another thing I like to do when I have the time is make several small trips to the grocery store and pick up things for just one or two days, rather than one big trip for a week or two. Taking a slightly different, longer route places in your usual routine is another easy way to build in a little bit more time walking around and being active, even if it isn't exercise.
posted by SugarAndSass at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2010

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