With a new year right around the corner, many of us start thinking about how to improve ourselves with new year’s resolutions. And it probably comes as no surprise that getting more exercise, getting in shape, and losing weight are always some of the most popular new year’s resolutions.
I don’t typically set new year’s resolutions, but I have been wanting to get in shape for some time now. I was fortunate that I lost my baby weight fairly quickly, but this body definitely isn’t the same shape it was pre-kids!
It may never get there again, but I do want to be more comfortable in my own skin. And yes, the stress eating and the kids-are-driving-me-crazy chocolate binges don’t help! But I’ve made incorporating more exercise into daily life a big priority over the last several months, and it’s starting to pay off.
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I am a firm believer that every bit counts. Whether you’re trying to save money, live a more frugal lifestyle, or save a few minutes in your day, whatever you do is better than doing nothing.
And incorporating more exercise into your day is no different. Whether you choose just one or two of the tips below or a handful, you’ll be better off than if you didn’t do anything.
What’s more, the nice thing about exercise is that it has a snowball effect. Once you start feeling better and noticing results, it motivates you to keep going, push harder, and strive for better results. In this way, the snowball turns into an avalanche that can’t be stopped.
You know me for offering money saving tips, and this post is no different. The nice thing about getting into shape is that you really don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment. You can get fit and incorporate more exercise in your day with literally nothing more than your body.
So how do you get started incorporating more exercise into your day? It’s probably easier than you think.
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Exercising is a great way to start the day. Get your blood pumping and the endorphins going!
If you have time in the morning to exercise, great! But if you already have to get up early for work, or if you have little ones that get you up unwillingly, dragging yourself out of bed an extra half hour early to exercise is tough, if not impossible.
That doesn’t mean you can’t do something though.
Get the blood flowing and your body waking up with a good stretch.
Stand up and touch your toes, reach your arms to the sky, or do some torso twists to stretch out the sleepies. It doesn’t have to be for long, but stretching is a calm, relaxing way to get ready for your day and an easy way to get more exercises.
Build those muscles
Start the day off strong with some strength training exercises. Examples include push ups, planks, wall sits, or lifting light weights.
If you’re looking for a brisker way to start your day and get your heart pumping, do some jumping jacks, high march in place, or do some burpees (video).
We’re not trying to train for a marathon here! We’re just looking to sneak in some easy ways to exercise quickly!
Don’t stop moving
I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t usually brush my teeth at the bathroom sink. I’m usually walking around tidying up, or doing something to get ready for my day.
If I am at the bathroom sink, I’m usually moving. Squats are an easy exercise to do while you’re brushing your teeth, and a simple way to incorporate more exercise into your day. You can also do hip rolls and engage your core for a mini ab workout. Or keep it really simple and do some shoulder and neck rolls, which is also a nice, gentle way to warm up for your day.
Other ways you can incorporate more exercise into your morning routine is when you’re checking the weather or news, or waiting for your breakfast to cook (even if it’s just waiting for your toast to pop up from the toaster!). March in place, continue your stretches, or go up and down the stairs a few times. You will be amazed how these little movements add up and become routine.
Off to Work!
If you work outside the home, you have a lot of opportunities to incorporate more exercise into your day.
- Bike it: If you live within a reasonable distance from work, try biking instead of driving or taking mass transit. If you live near a major metropolitan area and a bike share program is available, see if your employer will subsidize the expense.
- Park farther away: If you drive in, park at the end of the parking lot and walk the rest of the way. It’s a good way to start racking up the steps.
- Get off a stop early: If you use mass transit to get to work, get off a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Take the stairs: Skip the elevator and hoof it up to your floor. If you work in a high-rise, get off a floor or two early and step it up the rest of the way.
Incorporate More Exercise Into Your Day at Work
It’s become abundantly clear that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t good for us. The human body evolved through movement, not sitting at a desk for seven, eight, nine or more hours a day.
While I don’t think many of us would trade modern conveniences for our hunt-or-be-hunted lifestyles of the past, the trade-offs have come at a steep price: obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol.
Fortunately, it’s easy to incorporate more exercise into your day while you work. No, these tips won’t prep you to run a marathon, and if you want to get serious about your health, you will need to embark on a more formal exercise routine, but if you need help getting started down the path toward fitness, these will get you off to the right start.
You’ve probably heard that standing desks are all the rage in corporate America. Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. Studies have shown that standing desks on their own don’t really provide much in the way of health or fitness benefits.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have any benefits. Standing desks are beneficial for those with bad backs for whom sitting for long stretches of time can be painful.
Also, if you use your standing desk to march in place, do toe lifts, hip rolls, or otherwise encourage movement during the day, you’re better off than just sitting. Standing on its own might not do anything to encourage fitness but making it easier to move does.
Before you go out and order your own standing desk, see if work will buy one for you. The worst they can say is no!
So standing on its doesn’t do much for you but walking certainly will. Unfortunately, an under the desk treadmill is probably more than most of us are willing to spend, but if your work will buy it for you, definitely take them up on the offer!
A much more economical way to incorporate more exercise into your day is a pedal exerciser you can place under your desk. These machines bring the benefits of a stationary bike into your office.
Stability balls/pilates chairs
Another budget-friendly way to incorporate more exercise into your day is a stability ball/pilates chair. These work by ensuring better posture and engaging your core, so your ab muscles are getting a workout throughout the day.
You have a few options. You can either opt for a desk chair unit or a balance disk. A balance disk gives you many of the benefits of a pilates chair, but isn’t as bulky and comes in at a lower price point.
Another option is a balance disk that you can use for sitting or standing. I like the flexibility of these. Sit on them to engage your core and improve posture, or stand to strengthen leg muscles.
I put this on my Christmas wish list and hope Santa sees fit to leave one under my tree! And at a pretty low price point compared to other options on this list, it’s an attractive option for to incorporate more exercise into your day!
I am a huge fan of walking meetings. Not only does it have physical benefits, I fully believe it also has productivity benefits. Often a change of scenery and some fresh air helps get the creative juices flowing.
Walking meetings aren’t well suited for the dead of winter or the dog days of summer, but my team finds them to be a nice change of pace during pleasant weather.
Get up and talk to someone
For quick questions or conversations, skip the phone, email, or instant message and walk to a colleague’s desk. A few steps here and there add up, and is an easy way to incorporate more exercise into your day.
Similarly, stand up when you’re on the phone. Take the opportunity to do some toe lifts or stretch while you’re chatting.
You can also ditch the inter-office envelope and walk papers over to other departments or go to a copier on another floor.
If you don’t want to purchase fitness equipment for work, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate more exercise into your day. Try any or all of these exercises that you can do sitting at your desk:
- Leg lifts
- Calf stretches: With feet on the floor point your toes up and keep your heel down. You should feel a deep stretch in your calf.
- Butt clenches
- Shoulder/neck/head rolls
- Bicep curls holding a heavy object you have around your office
- Arm raises
- Chest stretches: stretch your arms straight out in front of you and slowly pull them back toward you while you flex. You should feel your chest opening and your back stretching.
- Pelvic tips: While you sit roll up your pelvis to feel a crunch in your abs.
- Namaste: Put hands together as if in prayer, or namaste position, and press together. You use your body’s own resistance as strength building exercise. These kinds of exercises, called isometric exercises, are a quiet, stealthy way to incorporate more exercise into your day.
Of course depending on your seating arrangements you may or may not feel comfortable doing all of these exercises but do what works for you to incorporate more exercise into your day.
Use the company gym
If your workplace has an onsite gym, use it. Come into work a half hour early, stay a bit later, or use your lunch break to work out. Even a couple of times a week will provide huge benefits to your overall health and fitness.
Do a quick towel down, throw on some more deodorant, and freshen your hair and makeup (if that’s your thing), and you’re good to get back to work.
Start a Workout Program
I know I’ve said this before, but as a working mom of two boys, I feel like I have negative time. So the idea of going to the gym before or after the kids go to bed just isn’t going to happen. I need a workout program that’s fast, convenient, and cheap.
I’ve recently fallen in love with Maggie Binkley’s fifteen-minute workouts. They’re intense, compact workouts that I suffer through, but feel really good after completing. Even though it’s tough, I can do fifteen minutes. And all of her videos are available free on Amazon Prime. Bonus!
If you don’t have Amazon Prime, search youtube for an exercise video that works for you. There are tons of options out there, whether you want aerobics, dance, or a killer ab workout.
If you’re not an exercise video kind of person, you can always walk or ride a bike.
My husband recently dusted off his old bike and started racking up the miles. Almost immediately he started sleeping better, having more energy, and feeling better. One positive change in his life led to more as he started eating better too so as not to cancel out all of the good benefits he was getting from exercising. See, snowball effect!
Once it started getting too cold and icy to bike outside, he got a bike stand to convert his road bike into a stationary bike. Rather than having a clunky piece of exercise equipment, we have a stand that’s easy to fold up and put away when it’s not in use! Plus, it’s much cheaper than a regular stationary bike!
If you want the benefits of a gym memberships without the cost, consider buying one or two fitness machines. Before you make a significant investment, check out local facebook groups, Decluttr, OfferUp, or Craigslist to see what you can get for free/cheap. Over the summer, I bought a rower for $100. That’s about two months of a gym membership around me so I’m definitely coming out ahead!
Other Ways to Incorporate More Exercise Into Your Day
The whole point of this post is to find ways to add more fitness throughout your day. You don’t have to be in a certain place, doing anything particular. Whatever you’re doing, find ways to turn a sedentary activity into a more active one, or do an activity more energetically. Here are even more ideas on how to incorporate more exercise into your day:
- Stand up straight: Just like grandma said! Stand up straight, shoulders back, core engaged. Keeping my abs tight and firm while standing and sitting is one of the only things keeping me from having a complete jelly belly!
- Sit properly: Practice good posture while you’re sitting too. Again, keep your abs firm, feet flat on the floor, and spine tall. Doing so keeps your back strong and helps to prevent aches and pains in your shoulders and neck.
- Dance party: Dance….all the time. Not only is it good for burning calories, dancing is a great mood booster. So shimmy in the shower, conga while you clean, and box step while you brush your teeth.
- Clean energetically: You’ve gotta clean so you might as well get some more use out of it by pumping up the energy to burn more calories.
- Stairs: I mentioned this before, but take the stairs whenever possible. If stairs are tough, start small with just one floor. Build up as you’re able. And don’t slouch on the escalator either. Walk it up!
- Go for a walk: Even if you only have ten minutes, take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Walking is so beneficial that it’s worth making time for.
- Stretch and strengthen: Instead of slumping on the couch while you watch TV, get on the floor and stretch out. Or work your abs through planks or crunches. Make down time active time!
- Exercise with your kids: I’m loathe to take time away from my kids to exercise. So I have them join me! Search YouTube for kids’ exercise videos or kids’ hiit (high intensity interval training) exercises. We found a quick six minute workout where we move like all sorts of different animals. It may not be the most intense workout but we all have fun doing it.
- Wash your own car: This is another activity my kids love. We all get moving and my car (almost!) gets clean!
- After dinner walk: Instead of heading to the TV after dinner, grab the family and go for a walk or bike ride after dinner. Chances are, everyone will sleep a bit better with some exercise and fresh air!
Commit to Getting More Exercise Into Your Day
Getting more exercise into your day is a habit you need to develop over time. It’s going to be easy to fall back into old ways and be a lump on the couch. Here’s how you set yourself up for success.
As a working mom, I live and die by my calendar. If it’s not in there, it doesn’t exist. Along with dentist appointments, birthday parties, and work commitments, I schedule chores. So why not exercise?
Whether it’s thirty minutes every morning or ten minutes three times a day, put it in your calendar and stick to it!
Find a friend
It’s more fun to exercise if you have someone to do it with. Find a friend or coworker to exercise with, or join a local fitness group. Or, involve your spouse or kids for family bonding and exercise.
Pump up the jams
Put together a killer playlist to get you ready to move. Whatever motivates you and energizes you will work just fine.
Get a mentor
Do you have someone in your life that makes exercise a priority? Enlist them as a coach and mentor!
Talk to them about how they got started with their exercise routine. What do they do? How did they develop their fitness routine? How do they balance work, family, and their personal life? What do they do when life throws curveballs and they can’t follow their exercise plan?
By talking with people who are more advanced in their fitness routines, you will lean valuable tips and strategies from real people that may help you establish your own fitness habit.
Ask them to help you stay motivated and encourage you when you don’t feel like working out. Or ask if you can join them on a walk or bike ride sometimes.
Sometimes a little tough love or encouragement is all we need to get our booties in gear!
It may not seem like these tips to incorporate more exercise into your day will add up to much. They’re not going to make you instantly fit, or replace a regular workout program that includes strength training and cardio.
These tips are more about a mindset change. By adding more movement into your day and being more mindful about your health, you start a cascade effect of positive benefits.
Maybe taking the stairs will inspire you to start training for a 5K. Or maybe being a bit more active during the day will encourage you to try a quick exercise video. Like I said in the beginning, whatever you do is better than doing nothing.
I’ve seen what a sedentary lifestyle can do. I’ve had family members who became injury prone because they lost flexibility and balance and suffered falls. Even a few stairs or getting in and out of the car became a struggle. I’ve seen others have to give up things they love because they become too tired from a bit of walking. And others have a hard time playing with my kids because they can’t get down on their level. Seeing loved ones struggle through this first hand has been a powerful motivator for me to keep stretching, keep moving, and get fit.
What do you do to incorporate more exercise into your day? Or what motivates you to get fit? Leave a note in the comments below!