As every caregiver knows, finding a block of free time for exercise is almost impossible. And let’s face it: Even a 20-minute workout takes at least a half hour by the time you change clothing, set up the DVD player, and get out (and then put away) the yoga mat and weights. Yet the physical and psychological benefits of exercise are undeniable. Is it possible to reap those benefits without a major time commitment?
The answer is yes. Here are four ways to build strength and endurance as you go about your daily routine:
If you’ve seen news reports lately about the benefits of standing desks, you may have also read about the health risks of sitting too much. Consider this: Your body has to burn an additional 1.36 calories for every minute you stand, which is 81.6 calories an hour. If your commute is 45 minutes each way and you stand throughout, you’ll burn about a pound (3,500 calories) in one month!
When you do sit, head for the least comfortable seat. If you sink into an easy chair or sofa, you’re less likely to rearrange yourself or move while you’re sitting, and you aren’t engaging your core (stomach and back) muscles. Sitting erect (that is, so your back is straight and isn’t touching the back of the chair) engages these muscles, so head for a dining chair or stool. Sitting on the floor is even better.
Yes, putting on proper footwear and heading out for a 45-minute power walk might be ideal, but every little bit of movement counts. On your way to and from work, walk to the next subway or bus stop (10 minutes each way), and go outside for at 15-minute walk on your lunch break. Leave the really close parking spots for someone else (2 minutes). If you have the choice between the escalator or stairs, take the stairs (3 minutes). Walk the dog a block farther than usual (5 minutes). See how it all adds up?
Kitchens, believe it or not, are great places for quick exercises. While you’re waiting for the coffee to brew or your toast to pop up, start your morning with 8 to 12 push-ups, leaning your hands on the counter instead of dropping to the floor. (Tip: The farther your feet are from the counter and the more you have to lean, the harder you’ll have to work.) Then turn around and do some triceps dips. Add another set or two at lunch time while you heat up your food, or in the evening while you’re cooking dinner or cleaning up the kitchen. Other places to sneak in movement: Waiting on line or for the subway, or even in an elevator. Lift your heels an inch or two off the ground 10 to 20 times, then stand on alternate legs (work up to 30 seconds), to build calf strength and improve balance.