Five tips to move more – without going to the gym

Doing housework and carrying heavy shopping bags count towards your daily activity

Even domestic tasks such as housework   can count towards to your daily activity. Photograph: iStock

Even domestic tasks such as housework can count towards to your daily activity. Photograph: iStock

 

1) Break it down

Current guidelines recommend adults clock up at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity on five days a week (or 150 minutes a week). But new US guidelines say even short bouts are beneficial. It means you can cut that exercise pie any way you like, even just a minute or two at a time. As little as five to 10 minutes of high-intensity incidental activity will make a significant dent.

2) Paint that fence

“Incidental physical activity that is part of our daily living is by far the most promising option for turning the physical inactivity epidemic tide,” says Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis of the University of Sydney. Even domestic tasks such as housework and handwashing the car can count towards your daily activity. But standing is not enough. “Our bodies need a challenge, even if this challenge is a very brief one,” says Stamatakis.

3) Do a bit more

Dr Charlie Foster, from the University of Bristol, says the key is to simply do a little bit more of what you already manage, such as extending your stroll to the shops or walking up escalators at a train station. “I would look at your typical day and weekend: where are you already doing something in an active way – could you do that for longer? We know, behaviourally, that makes more sense for people rather than starting something new.”

4) Don’t forget strength and balance

Carrying heavy shopping bags an extra few hundred metres to a car parked further away, climbing stairs or even balancing on one leg are all options; the latest draft guidance from the UK’s chief medical officer also suggests digging in the garden or lifting and carrying a child.

5) Make use of work time

Being sedentary for extended periods of time has been linked to an increased risk of a number of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease, as well as early death. But a recent study found reducing the risk isn’t only about breaking up bouts of being still – it is important to reduce your overall sedentary time. Pacing while on the phone, going over to your colleagues, rather than emailing, and scheduling West Wing-style walk-and-talks, could all get the ball rolling. – Guardian