We talk a lot about how you’ve got to move if you want to live a long, healthy life. Research shows even adding one minute of intense effort to a 10-minute workout can boost your well-being. And that’s just one study among thousands that cites exercise as a critical longevity factor.
And yet, research also shows less than a quarter of American adults get enough exercise. It’s possible that the landslide of articles and studies, meant to be informative, is just overwhelming. Ditto on numbers that may seem insurmountable, like the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of rigorous physical activity weekly.
The antidote to information overwhelm and fitness inertia is twofold: start small and make movement a habit.
Put Fitness Under a Microscope
How do you quantify physical activity? Only workouts, or do you include activities like housework and chores, which research shows are good for your physical and mental health?
It’s helpful to distinguish between exercise and physical activity. The former is intentional activity to preserve fitness. And the latter, according to kinesiologist David Liira, is any movement that activates your musculoskeletal system and gets your heart pumping. Understanding that both contribute to your well-being and longevity is vital.
Fostering true healthy living comes when you move during all hours of the day, not just the time spent in the gym.
So, that means walking instead of taking the car, choosing stairs over an elevator, and using your lunch break to take a stroll. These are all good examples of “nutritious movement,” promoted by practitioner Katy Bowman, who advises making bite-sized changes to your environment and habits for a healthier lifestyle.
Move a Muscle
Considering that sedentary behavior is one of the primary contributing factors to heart disease and death in the US (especially during the pandemic), it’s time to stand up for your health. Liira has a couple of easy suggestions to build your micro-fitness habit:
- A 5-minute morning mobility practice: Counteract soreness and stiffness first thing each day with dynamic movements that promote pain-free range of motion, including lunges, cat-cow stretches, and knee wags.
- Limit sitting: Anytime you’re engaging in sedentary behavior (i.e., working, watching TV), set a timer for 30 minutes. When it goes off, stand up and move around for at least a minute. If you’re up for more, try a snackable workout: a 12-minute HIIT session (recommended by our Well + Wealthy faculty member, Krista Stryker) or a short power walk.
Or, you can take Katy Bowman’s advice and do things like moving your dishes to a lower level in the kitchen, so you have to squat to get them or making any high table your new standing desk. Your better health doesn’t require a massive lifestyle change – micro-movements will carry your well-being much further.