Living an active lifestyle is a common goal, but fitting it into your daily schedule can be challenging. If you don’t have an active occupation, to begin with, long commutes, sedentary desk work, and packed social schedules can make it difficult to find the time. Even in the midst of the COVID pandemic, working from home can blur the lines between on and offline hours. We’re here to encourage you to prioritize activity. It doesn’t have to be strenuous or a two–hour sweat sesh – anything is better than nothing. So let’s start where you are.
Before drilling down into best practices, let’s talk about all of the health benefits that are a result of consistent movement. And there are many:
Results today. Ok, maybe not physical results in the form of weight loss, but activity hugely impacts your mental health. Improved thinking, learning, and judgment skills can sharpen with consistent activity. It can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Movement is a natural mood booster!
Weight loss. Now we’re talking. While nutrition cannot be replaced, an active lifestyle directly affects your weight. To lose weight, a combination of a healthy diet and enough exercise are key. The recommended amount of exercise per week is 150 minutes, but remember to start where you are. If your current lifestyle is largely sedentary, start with a 20-minute walk after dinner, stretching before work, or a couple circuits up and down the stairs in between meetings. If you’re at a weight you are happy with, fantastic! To maintain your weight, continue to eat well and exercise regularly (150 minutes is still recommended for maintenance).
Less chronic disease risk. There is a direct correlation between an active lifestyle and reduced chronic diseases. Regular exercise makes your heart stronger; combined with less bodyweight, your blood pressure can drastically drop. This greatly decreases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Regular activity can also stave off Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and several cancers.
Strengthening. This is an obvious one for muscles, but exercise also strengthens your bones. Bone density commonly decreases with age. Regular exercise helps combat this process, keeping your muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones in tip-top shape as you get older. This lowers the risk of falls, arthritis, and fractures, ensuring optimal mobility in your older years.
Longevity. As you age, everyday chores and activities can become harder – like housework, shopping, or even attending social gatherings. Investing in exercise today is the key to staying as active as possible into your later years – without chronic diseases or injury. Activity can also help you live longer in general: The CDC says “People who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week have a 33% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who are physically inactive.” Now there’s some motivation!
Our Favorite Ways To Get Active (Without Spending Hours in the Gym)
One of the first steps to getting active is optimizing your time. Many of our excuses for avoiding regular exercise revolve around busy schedules and time constraints – not to mention exhaustion at the end of it all. We get it. Life is busy, but your health is worth prioritizing. A helpful method to set limits on your time is by following the 3×8 rule: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of “you” time, and 8 hours of sleep. Of course, your “you” time is further broken down into familial and household responsibilities, but protect part of this time for just you.
Now that you have a little bit of “you” time, let’s look at some methods for incorporating activity into your day today:
1. Make it fun. If you hate running, don’t go for a run. Walking is always a good go-to; throw on your favorite podcast, call a friend, or listen to music to really Zen out. You can also join a live online class where you can connect with others, or partner with friends to hit workout goals (did you know you can add friends to your wellness team in the Lively Habits app?). Maybe dancing or Zumba is more your jam – join a gym, watch a YouTube video, or make it up as you go along!
2. Local options. What is nearby that will get you moving? Gyms will always be an all-inclusive option, but don’t stop there. Are there any walking paths or hiking trails around you? Is there a community pool where you can swim laps? Even hyperlocal options are on the table: turn to vacuum the house into a workout. Take breaks from sitting to walk around the yard or do some quick circuits up
3. Make it social. Include friends, family, or neighbors to make it fun and keep you accountable. Start a weekly hiking club or meet for yoga in the park. Have everyone meet at a destination that is a mile or two from your favorite smoothie shop, then enjoy your healthy treat once you arrive. Join a cycling group or plan weeknight jogs with a friend.
4. Make it in your face. Get some workout equipment and put it in a prominent place in the house. You don’t need to buy a Peloton bike – get some resistance bands, one pair of dumbbells, a door-jam pull-up bar, or a yoga mat to get started!
5. Make it an adventure. Do you know what gets you moving? Travel. Discover a new city and walk downtown, or investigate a new park. Check out a beach or lake you’ve never been to, or find an Airbnb that is near an attraction you’ve always wanted to visit.
6. Start early. This may not be the answer for everyone, but an early start makes it easier to fit activity into your day. Whether this means starting work a half-hour earlier than normal or going for a morning walk before clocking in, an early start makes all the difference for your available time and energy.
It’s easy to neglect to live an active lifestyle. We know that you’re busy simultaneously balancing seven “top priorities,” but investing in your health with daily activity is an achievable goal that hugely pays off in the future. Take control of your health with implementable activities that jive well with your lifestyle. Make it enjoyable, make it accessible, make it a habit. Then step back and reap the benefits of optimized health now and into your later years.
Chronic diseases – such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and heart disease – are leading causes of death and disability. The Liu Foundation offers philanthropic GoLively app and video series promoting evidence-based lifestyle habits to prevent chronic diseases. GoLively integrated Harvard, Stanford, and CDC’s Public Health findings into an easy-to-use behavior conditioning app and series of lifestyle motivation videos to prevent chronic diseases.
GoLively app and videos cover physical, mental, social, financial, and medical health aspects with 10 healthy lifestyle habits. GoLively enables corporate social responsibility to lower the annual $4 trillion spent on preventable chronic diseases in the United States. Healthy habits can lead to improved employee health, saving healthcare cost, increasing productivity, and morale. Download the Lively Habits app to help you keep track of your 10 healthy lifestyle habits. Go Lively!