Can’t cram a workout in your crazy schedule? You know you should exercise, but making it happen feels next to impossible some days (even weeks). You don’t have to go hardcore at the gym an hour every day to benefit your health. You can improve your cardiovascular fitness, balance, and strength outside of the gym. Check with your doctor before making any changes to your fitness plans, and then try these tips to fit more fitness into your life.
Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.
- Wear weight. Whether you strap on a weight vest, or just ankle and wrist weights, carrying around more than your body weight helps burn more calories while doing housework, running errands, or exercising. If you’re a new mom trying to shed baby weight, get a baby backpack to carry the baby instead of relying on the stroller. Most babies love it too.
- Keep hand weights near your desk or couch. At odd moments of the day, pop off a few sets to keep your metabolism up, and build more strength. The weight should be heavy enough so you can perform 10 to 15 repetitions before losing proper form. That’s one set. Do a couple of sets per muscle group and you’ll be on your way to a fitter body.
- Go old school. Calisthenics make your body into your gym. Perform squats, calf raises, push-ups and isometric movements, alternating sets with jumping jacks, running in place, or invisible rope jumping. (For an extra benefit, strap on the weights, or as applicable, hold dumbbells.)
- Try to engage all of the muscle groups you can. You can do calf raises while you brush your teeth, or wait in line at the grocery store. Do squats while doing your hair or while talking on the phone. You can even do push-ups against your desk or countertop while on the phone if you use a headset. Perform isometric movements such as pressing your palms together and holding the position for 15-seconds, or attempting to push an immovable object. Perform leg lifts while working at your desk—just skip the ankle weights on this as it can injure your joints.
- Move as much as possible. Instead of sitting to talk on the phone, march in place. Go and walk laps around a park. Play actively with your children instead of always resorting to sedentary games. For example, pick Twister over Monopoly. Kick around a soccer ball instead of sitting to play video games. Your children may object initially, but soon they’ll enjoy the active fun. The trend here is to replace sedentary activities with moving ones.
- Adopt a moving hobby. If you discover a hobby you love, it’s easy to stick with it because you can hardly wait to do it, whether it’s martial arts, swimming, or whatever. Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.
- Learn kickboxing, or an aerobics routine. Follow a video class online until you learn the moves. Then, you can perform a few moves whenever you find a few spare minutes, such as waiting for dinner to cook. You may get funny looks if you start punching the air at the pediatrician’s office, so go easy there, tiger.
- Get intense. When you get a little workout time, don’t hold back. Got 15-minutes first thing in the morning? Make them count by strapping on weights and engaging in intense exercise for the time you have. That could include running up and down a flight of stairs, jumping rope or shadowboxing. Don’t wear heavy wrist weights if shadow boxing, because you could damage your joints.
- Try burpees. Begin in a standing position. Do a jumping jack. Drop down and do a push-up. Spring up into a standing position and repeat 10 to 15 times. Rest a few moments and perform another set of 10 to 15. Burpees improve the body’s aerobic ability, strength and balance.
- Ramp it up. You may need to hold onto a countertop or stable chair while performing calf raises at first, but as you improve your balance and strength, let go. Gradually increase the difficulty of your routine. One-legged calf raises and squats challenge both strength and balance, for example. Use heavier weights to lift. Jump onto a step at the apex of the burpee.
Getting into shape takes time. A random set or two per week won’t make much difference; however, making movement your habit can greatly improve your health.
DEBORAH JEANNE SERGEANT is a second-degree black belt, and instructor in Kuk Sool Won Korean martial arts. She is also author of The Big, Fat Answer, available at www.bn.com.