Most people know there’s a strong link between regular exercise and longevity. In fact, several studies show that exercise is not only good for your physical health, it may also help sharpen your mind and improve your mood.
Trouble is, between around-the-clock work schedules, family obligations and household responsibilities, finding time to get fit can be a challenge. The good news: A growing body of research suggests “snacking” on exercise throughout the day offers significant health benefits.
Snacking on Exercise
If you can’t manage an extended workout, “exercise snacks” – bursts of exercise as short as 5 minutes long – may offer a stay-fit solution. For some, sprinkling activity in where you can is less overwhelming and more convenient than trying to digest a one-hour stint at the gym.
Here are six snacking strategies to help you meet your exercise needs:
- Make an appointment: View exercise as you would any other appointment. Block off time in your calendar and make sure you stick to the schedule.
- Set a timer: Often, the most difficult part of any exercise regimen is getting started. Once you start moving, you might even find it easy to keep going. To make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed, think in bite-sized chunks and set a timer accordingly. Start with 5 minutes three or four times a day and work your way up to 15- to 20-minute chunks.
- Track your activity: Using wearable fitness devices, such as pedometers, FitBits and other tracking tools can be motivating. They’re convenient and easy to use and some models also allow you to upload your data, monitor your pulse and track calories burned. Don’t want to go high-tech? Most smartphones come with a built-in step tracker, so you can easily challenge yourself to take more steps each day. You can even track your activity with a pen and paper log. The key is to measure your efforts and create a sense of accomplishment.
- Squeeze in fitness: Wake up early, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the opposite end of the parking lot and work out at your desk. Household chores, such as gardening, vacuuming, mopping and transporting groceries count as well, and you can always build strength training moves into your daily activities (do lunges while waiting for your coffee to brew or drop down and do a set of pushups in between laundry cycles).
- Get a buddy: Studies consistently show that people who feel supported in their fitness endeavors are more likely to stay on track. Scheduling exercise snacks with a friend or coworker not only boosts your odds of showing up, it also makes activity more fun. Want to go the professional route? Consider working with a personal trainer for a few sessions. A pro can help you devise an exercise snack smorgasbord that works with your busy life.
- Try an app: Snacking on exercise can be easier when you use smartphone technology. You can set reminders to exercise on your phone or download fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal or Sworkit, to motivate yourself to get moving. You can even choose from thousands of 10- to 15-minute fitness clips on YouTube to meet your daily exercise quota.
Finding Your Way
No matter what your health and fitness goals, it’s always smart to talk to your doctor before you amp up your activity, especially if you have high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease. But even with those challenges, getting adequate exercise is important. The key is ramping up at an appropriate pace.
To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).