Habits of Fit People: Add Activity—Not Just Exercise—to Your Days

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You want to be a fit person, right? That's why I'm sharing my own habits for keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.

Here's one that works for me: Adding more activity to my days. I'm not talking about exercise or planned workouts, either. You might not think about it often, but there's a lot more to a fit lifestyle than the time you spend in the gym. So why does something like this matter?

You may think that since you work out regularly, you don't need to worry about doing additional active things each day. You hit the gym before work in the morning, so when your spouse brings up the idea of an evening walk with the family after dinner, you think, "I better not overdo it after today's tough workout." Or when you're rushing through your weekend errands, you park in the closest spot to the door, brushing off the usual advice to park further away because you "already worked out today."

Sounds a little silly, right? Unfortunately, I think a lot of us fall into the trap of thinking we don't need to be "active" because we already "exercise." But when experts and fitness professionals talk about the benefits of living an "active lifestyle," they're talking about one that includes planned workouts AND additional daily activity that gets you on your feet. If you think about it, you only spend a few hours in the gym each week. Even if you're there 6 days a week, for an hour at a time, there are still over 100 waking hours in your week that you're NOT exercising. And for those of us with desk jobs, at least 40 of those are spent sitting. Several more hours involve driving (sitting), watching TV (sitting), playing on the computer (sitting) and other passive activities like letting the dishwasher wash your dishes for you.

Years ago, there was no such thing as obesity or the health problems that come along with it. People were on their feet all day long—simply moving because they had to in order to survive. We didn't drive anywhere or sit at computers all day. We farmed, weeded, built, tended, carried, walked, harvested, hauled, cooked, cleaned—everything. On top of that, we didn't have remote controls (or TVs for that matter), dishwashers, washing machines, or automatic lawnmowers. And we think modern life is hard! Just think of the calorie burn and the muscle-building potential of all that activity each day!

This week, after teaching a Pilates class during lunch (my planned workout for the day), I also biked to and from the library. On Sunday, after an hour-long Spinning class that always kicks my butt, I also opted to walk for an hour after dinner. At the grocery, I skip the cart and haul my load of groceries in a basket. On weekends, I go most of the day without even sitting down. I visit the farmers market or pick-your-own farm, wash dishes by hand, cook lots of food for the week ahead, hang-dry my laundry on the line outside, clean the house and mow the lawn—on top of the hour or so I spend in the gym.

These activities aren't exactly challenging workouts—but they burn far more calories than a sedentary lifestyle does. All of it adds up to what experts call an active lifestyle—one that includes planned workouts (to build strength, flexibility and endurance, all of which enhance your health and your life), but also light activities—some of which are work, like gardening, and others of which are more enjoyable, like dancing or a game of bowling.

Here are a few ways you can bring more "activity" into your fit lifestyle, no matter how much time you have on your hands:
  • For a dinner out, choose a place within walking distance of your house (up to 2 miles away) and walk to and from the restaurant.
  • At work, opt for the restroom furthest away from your workstation. (With all that water you're drinking, those steps will surely add up!)
  • Take the stairs any chance you get: at work, the mall and even in your home.
  • Shun some labor-saving devices like remotes and the dishwasher a few nights a week.
  • When watching TV, try a few simple exercises like the plank, pushups, squats or lunges. I often break out a quick set of pushups or abs exercises in my own living room.
  • Play with your kids (or your pet). Don't be an onlooker! Get involved. I only have a cat, but she loves a game where I chase her around the house--it's also intense enough to get my heart rate up!
  • For a fun night out with friends or family members, choose an active pursuit: bowling, ping-pong and miniature golf will keep you on your toes and off your tush!
  • Sit on an exercise ball at your computer to help strengthen your core and posture muscles.
  • Wear a pedometer. It'll encourage you to walk more often and you'll be surprised at the number of creative ways you'll find to get on your feet!

Remember, there's more to fitness than just working out. You'll feel stronger, more energetic and fitter when you incorporate little bursts of activity into your days on top of working out. Plus you'll burn more calories, which can help you manage your weight!

Are you guilty of letting exercise replace the other "activities" in your life? What small ways do (or could) you add a little more activity to your days?