Give me some life-long exercise habits to squish into my very busy life.
May 29, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

My life is crazy busy (whose isn't?) with school, small children and work, so often exercise is the thing that gets cut. I want to make my daily life more active, so that when I can't "exercise" I have still not been totally sedentary. I loved this question; I now stand like a flamingo every time I brush my teeth. But the question asks for general life tricks, and I am looking for exercise-specific habits. I am having a hard time googling for tricks because I am not looking for tricks or habits to implement while "exercising" or to get me to exercise.

Examples of what I am looking for:

Parking far away from my destination so I have to walk.
Always take the stairs unless I need to go five flights or more.
Kegels at red lights.

I have seen these questions already:

Healthy Habits
rules and habits

but I am looking for more specifically exercise-into-your-daily-life habits that I can continue for my whole life and although maybe small, hopefully will add up without being onerous.

I have just read The Power of Habit, which had underscored the importance of habit, so I am specifically looking for those things that you do every time.

There must be tons! The flamingo-while-teeth-brushing was a perfect example of something that I had not thought of (or really heard of) that is easy to do and just fits into an activity that I already do. Lay them on me!
posted by heybearica to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
If you're flat out on the couch watching TV, when commercials come on, turn on your side and do slow leg lifts. Flip over and do the other leg when the next set of commercials come on. Or keep a pair of light weight barbells (I have 3 lb ones from Target) by the couch and do arm lifts, different variations, while you're watching TV.

Having suggested the above, I should actually DO them myself.
posted by HeyAllie at 10:41 AM on May 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Ride your bike instead of driving on short trips.

Use manual instead of power tools for household tasks (like sweeping instead of using a leafblower on the driveway).

Put an exercise bike in front of your TV.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:43 AM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here's mine:

I do lunges down my hallway. If I'm in the living room and I need to get to my bedroom, I lunge down the hallway.

I have pull up bar in a doorway. Whenever I go through the door I crank out some pull ups.

I have a dip station in my garage, whenever I go in or out I do some dips.

When mowing the lawn I tighten my core.

I always explode (fun fast) up the stairs.
posted by bleucube at 10:47 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I tried planking for the very first time the other day. Whoah! Abs. You could incorporate planking into the leg lift routine suggested by HeyAllie. If you have time to watch tv, maybe you could pop in a yoga dvd or other exercise routine? (I don't watch tv, so I know not everybody does.)

When you're on the stairs you can do squats or lunges on some of the steps/landings.

In line at the grocery store I do calf raises. And I practice locking my knees, which is a major part of the yoga practice I love.

If a trip is less than a mile, walk. If it's between one and 3-5 miles (depending on your comfort) ride your bike. This really helps keep grocery quantities to a minimum and forces you to really think about your choices.

Beyond this, more information about what is keeping you busy might help us find ways to tuck exercise into a day.
posted by tulip-socks at 10:49 AM on May 29, 2013

I pretty much walk anywhere that I can walking to in 20-30 minutes. My reasoning is by the time you get to your car, find parking etc etc that 5 minute car ride is almost always 15-20 door to door and for only 10 more minutes of my time, I can get a half decent workout. This obviously only really works in cities where a lot of places you are going are less than 2 miles away, but even in the burbs most people end up driving even to the places that are a 20 minute walk.
posted by whoaali at 10:51 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Always take the stairs, and jog up with bouncy steps, no matter how far. It will always be faster than the escalator, too.
posted by davejay at 10:58 AM on May 29, 2013

Do dips on the corner of a kitchen counter while waiting for the kettle to boil.
posted by neilb449 at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

While you're not looking for "get me to exercise" answers, I have to unequivocally say that the only exercise trick that worked for me as a single mom of 3 with a full-time job was to wake up an hour before everyone else in the family and force myself to either get outside and run (once the kids were old enough to be left unattended) or plug in either a P90X or yoga dvd.

The endorphin boost that I got from that exercise allowed me to cultivate healthier habits and then practice the type of exercise you're looking for.
posted by kinetic at 11:13 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Well per the Power of Habit you need a cue, a craving and a reward to create a habit, right?

I do a set or two of pushups before my morning shower (cue - shower time, craving - get a bit sweaty before getting clean (?), reward - hot shower) and before bed (cue - bed time, craving - sleep, reward - fresh sheets) and it's amazing how ingrained that habit is. And I'm very good at pushups now even though I never do them when I'm in the gym. We have a Starting Stretching poster on the wall by our laundry equipment too, and knock out the stretches after putting a load in. Again, totally ingrained habit now.
posted by jamesonandwater at 11:19 AM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Your toothbrushing time is already accounted for, but if you want variety: I use mine to do full squats.

I'm trying to get in the habit of doing planks while waiting for the microwave.

I don't let myself sit down when I'm getting dressed, including while putting on socks and shoes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:01 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, you have small children! Give them piggy-back rides. Mine get rides upstairs to bed, and the smaller one sometimes gets piggy-backs to the bus stop in the morning.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:03 PM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You might get leads on some more suggestions from this article about using a "lifestyle integrated functional exercise" program to reduce falls in the elderly. The strategies include walking sideways, and holding a half-squat while standing at a counter.

The toilet is a convenient seat for doing a spinal twist.
posted by Corvid at 12:20 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do pliés and relevés at the kitchen counter, while waiting for toast or boiling things, but especially while feeding my kids at the eat-in counter. They still need supervision and it's boring, so I plie. Sometimes this makes the process take longer because they find me going up and down hilarious.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:54 PM on May 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I'm walking my kid to the bus stop I like to pretend the curb is a balance beam and I test myself to see how far I can go before slipping off. Good for balance, not really cardio-intensive. YMMV, we don't have sidewalks in part of our neighborhood; you might not have curbs.
posted by smuna at 2:28 PM on May 29, 2013

Wearing a weighted vest while you are doing regular things like shopping and walking can apparently have a lot of benefits in protecting against osteoporosis and improving balance, core strength, calorie burning, etc.

For mental health and true exercise, I really endorse kinetic's suggestion.
posted by bearwife at 2:44 PM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: Great ideas, everyone!

kinetic: I should have been more clear; I do have scheduled exercise time. These tricks are meant to be in addition to those times and to help on the "off" exercise days or when I've lost babysitting etc. Plus, I have a really hard time waking up early!

HeyAllie and tylerkaraszewski: I long for the days when I had enough time to sit in front of the TV, great ideas for others though!

Corvid: thanks for the link. I am definitely going to be trying to add some of those in, and I have sent my mother the link, since now is a good time for her to start thinking about staying strong.

neilb449: I tried the dip! Singular. I really need to work up to those I think!

The answers I have marked "best" are the ones I can see turning into life long habits, the kind where you don't need to decide or think about them, but your body just does it on its own.
posted by heybearica at 3:49 PM on May 29, 2013

posted by b33j at 3:52 PM on May 29, 2013

Do push ups with your child on your back...if you can. And lots of shoulder and piggy back rides, and wrestling matches and chasing.
posted by Dansaman at 4:58 PM on May 29, 2013

I am seconding just walk everywhere possible and take the stairs.
posted by bquarters at 7:24 PM on May 29, 2013

Squats or lunges in elevators.

Now that I've worked out enough to actually locate my abs, I walk around the office - like to and from the bathroom - with them sucked in. I look thinner, but it's also an exercise.
posted by Occula at 10:07 PM on May 29, 2013

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