Unstructured Activities Count, Too

Getting yourself motivated to be more physically active is not nearly as hard as you might think. The main thing is that you start to think more broadly about what constitutes exercise. Stop trying to find the closest parking spot, using remote controls for everything in your house, and waiting for the elevator when you could be using the stairs. Just adding a dozen steps here and there while doing household chores, yard work, or errands, along with standing, making extra arm movements, stretching, and other general body movement can easily add up to a substantial amount of energy expended over the course of the day and suffice to prevent insulin resistance and weight gain.

Maybe walking is not your cup of tea, and you’d rather take a bike ride around the nearest park. That’s OK, too, but keep in mind that cycling expends only about a third of the energy you use walking the same distance, so you would have to bike about three miles to equal walking just one. Doing either activity, though, you’re still expending calories, which is the important thing.

In reality, any exercise you do during the day counts. Now that you know that participation in intense activities (done at more than 60 percent of maximal aerobic capacity, such as jogging) is not necessary for optimal health and fitness, the world of physical activity is wide open. Pick your favorite leisure-time activity–golfing, gardening, mowing the lawn, or walking the dog–and do it a total of 30 to 45 minutes per day (for as little as ten minutes at a time). Even if your fitness level is not increased much, your overall health will benefit. Your new goal is simply to be as physically active as possible during the day to maximize caloric expenditure and blood glucose use.

It’s time for you to start taking the stairs (start with going down if up is too hard) instead of the elevator, and do so several times a day. Some additional ways to add in more unstructured activities are listed below, but be sure to think up more of your own–you know best your unique situation and interests.

Easy Ways to Add Unstructured Exercise

  • Add as many additional steps as possible (a minimum of 2,000) every day by walking whenever and wherever you can
  • Whenever you have 10 free minutes, walk around instead of sitting down–or at least stand up
  • Always take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
  • Do physical chores around the house, such as cleaning, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and washing dishes (even if you have a dishwasher)
  • Rake leaves in the yard or shovel snow
  • Go shopping for groceries or window-shopping at the nearest mall
  • Put on some music and dance around your house
  • Set up a basketball hoop in your driveway, or walk to the nearest neighborhood school and use theirs
  • Take the dog out for a daily walk (it needs exercise, too!)
  • Get up and move around for a few minutes after every 30 minutes of a sedentary activity
  • Stand or walk around while talking on the telephone instead of sitting down
  • Hide the remotes for the TV, stereo, and other devices
  • Walk in place, dance, move around, or even just stand up while watching TV–at least during the commercial breaks
  • Invest in a rebounder (mini-trampoline) and jump or bounce on it while watching TV
  • Limit your TV and computer use to no more than two hours per day, or at least reduce your use by a minimum of 30 minutes daily
  • Tip for the day: If you’re overweight, you may have special concerns about doing structured exercise routines. You may become so self-conscious about your body during such activities that it prevents you from wanting to participate at all, or the activities may seem too difficult. If this sounds like you, it’s especially important for you to find activities that you perceive as enjoyable to have any hope of continuing with them. Try out a few different activities until you find one or two that you really like. Also, try to add as much unstructured activity as you can into each and every day.

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