Beginner fitness part 2 - finding daily time for fitness

Fitting 'lifestyle activity' workouts into your daily routine

You may not think that merely putting a bit more effort in to your daily activities would have much impact on your overall fitness, but think again. By combining daily 'lifestyle activity' with more structured workouts can lead to considerable fitness benefits.

Now we have an idea of what fitness is all about, how are we going to make it happen? Devoting time to structured workouts (whether they be to build strength, improve aerobic fitness or enhance posture and flexibility) is essential.
But there’s no use putting in weekly gym sessions if you spend the rest of your time sprawled out on the sofa or hunched in front of the computer, with the phone gripped between your neck and ear! By fitting in exercise, your daily routine can make an enormous difference to your health and fitness.

Many studies have shown that fitness is best achieved through a combination of ‘lifestyle activity’ and structured exercise. In other words, by combining focused workouts with a more physically active and physically ‘aware’ lifestyle. Many of us become increasingly out of touch with our bodies as we get older and less active, so that when we do try to exercise we often do it badly, inefficiently and occasionally, harmfully. Improving your body awareness is an easy lifestyle step to take in improving your fitness — both by making better use of the time you spend seated at a desk, in your car or walking around — and also in maximizing the benefits you get from exercise.

You may not think that merely putting a bit more effort in to your daily activities would have much impact on your overall fitness, but think about this: even if you were a very enthusiastic gym goer, and worked out for an hour five days a week, that would still only amount to five hours out of a possible 168 hours of the week. If you are inactive the rest of the time (those other 163 hours!), that structured exercise is not going to have such a great impact on your overall fitness.

In Beginner fitness part 3, we’ll take a look at structured workouts in more detail — at what they should entail and how to hit all three ‘S’s in one workout … But first, let’s look at putting the lifestyle activity side of things into practice, whether you’ve got two minutes or 20 minutes to spare.

Lifestyle fitness in action

Got 30 seconds for exercise?
Pull in your tummy

Benefits: Strengthens the deep abdominal muscles that hold in the tummy and protect the back.

Imagine you are doing up a zip from your pubic bone to your navel, ‘drawing in’ the lower part of the tummy without holding your breath or lifting the chest. Hold for five seconds initially, and repeat regularly throughout the day. Build up to 10, 20 and 30 second holds as you get more proficient.

Got one minute for exercise?
Roll up

Benefits: The Pilates-based rolldown exercise eases out the spine, particularly after long periods sitting down.

Stand with feet 6 to 8 inches apart and knees slightly bent, arms by your sides and core engaged. Take a breath and as you exhale, draw the chin to the chest and begin to roll forwards through the neck vertebrae, the upper back, the mid back and finally the lower back, until your head and arms are hanging down by your feet. Pause to take a breath and as you exhale, ‘rebuild’ the spine by rolling back up to a standing position. Imagine the spine is like a wheel turning. Do this three times.

Got two minutes for exercise?

Stand tall

Benefits: Improved body awareness and posture.

Stand with feet 6 to 8 inches apart. Ensure the weight is evenly distributed between the front and back of the feet, and between the left and right feet. Pull up through the arches of the feet and ensure all toes have contact with the ground. Pull up through the legs but don’t make the knees rigid. Keep the hips square and level. Lengthen through the spine and engage the core, imaging the torso ‘growing’ out of the pelvis. Drop the rib cage, drawing the lower ribs down towards the pubic bone. Relax the shoulders and gently open the chest and front of the shoulders by turning your hands to face your thighs (or slightly forwards). Keep the neck long, the chin slightly retracted, and allow the head to sit squarely on top of the spine. Ensure your buttocks are ‘toned’ but not clenched, and the backs of the knees relaxed. Breathe freely.

Got three minutes for exercise?
Go for ab-solution

Benefits: Stronger, more toned tummy muscles.

In the next commercial break when you are watching TV, get down on the carpet, cross your arms over your chest and draw your belly button down towards the spine — then curl the torso up and forward, until your shoulders come off the floor. Pause, lower and repeat as many sets of eight as you can…

 

man with good body

Got four minutes for exercise?
Take the stairs

Benefits: Strengthens the heart and lungs (aerobic fitness) and the leg muscles.

Walk at a steady pace up and down the stairs for 4 minutes. You can spread this out throughout the day rather than doing all at once if you prefer ...

lady walking up stairs

 

Got five minutes for exercise?
Dance away

Benefits: Eases tense stiff muscles, improves stamina and mobility.

Put on a tune that you love to move to, draw the curtains and dance!

Got 10 minutes for exercise?
Go for a walk

Benefits: Cardiovascular exercise and strengthens leg muscles.

Put on a pedometer and a pair of comfortable shoes and count how many steps you can take in 10 minutes — (or do it on a treadmill and see how far you can travel). The distance will increase as you get fitter. This is something you can repeat throughout the day — studies show that as long as bouts of aerobic exercise are 10 minutes or more, they can count towards your recommended daily 30-minute target.

Got 12 minutes for exercise?
Do some chores

Benefits: Upper body strength, some stamina.

Grab a brush or broom and start sweeping the deck or porch. If you don’t have a deck or porch, sweep the floors! 

Got 15 minutes for exercise?
Go shopping

Benefits: Aerobic exercise and strength.

Instead of waiting till you need so much shopping that you need to drive to the supermarket, do a ‘mini-shop’, and carry the bags home, with an even weight in each hand.

 

Happy lady with shopping bags

 

Got 20 minutes for exercise?
Clean up

Benefits: Gentle aerobic activity combined with strengthening and stretching of the upper body.

Take your pick from hoovering to cleaning windows, scrubbing floors to polishing surfaces, dusting and tidying things away. Take off all the bedclothes and put clean ones on. Grab your pegs and hang out the washing. Put music on to encourage you to go at it with gusto and liven up dull tasks.

See how easy it is to make life more active? In Beginner fitness part 3 we’ll go on to look at the perfect workout.

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