One of our biggest opportunities for burning more calories and transforming our health is in how we think about motion in our lives.
The fitness industry has taught us that exercise occurs in specific places. Exercise happens at the gym. Exercise happens on the basketball court. Exercise happens in your living room if you buy an expensive piece of home gym equipment.
This mentality leads us to partition-off exercise from the rest of our day as though we are making an appointment with motion and it will only occur in that one hour that we are in the weight room or on the treadmill. That’s not how impactful Habits of Healthy Motion actually work, and that’s because our bodies are not built for long periods of inactivity punctuated by brief bursts of activity.
Our ancestors were always in motion. They walked and ran long distances to forage for food and to hunt down their family’s next big meal. Today, if your job involves being at a desk, you could pass an entire day and only walk a few dozen steps—what it takes to get to the car to commute to work, to walk to your desk, to walk to lunch, and to get back to your car for a long night of sitting on the couch watching television.
In the Habits of Health Transformational System, we address this reality head-on and call it the NEAT System (nonexercise activity thermogenesis). Yes, scheduled exercise like going to the gym or taking a yoga class is important, but current research suggests that it is not enough to undo the damage of a life that is otherwise spent sitting. We need to be active throughout our daily lives if we want to reach a healthy weight and achieve optimal wellbeing.
How do you introduce more motion into your modern-day, especially if your work has you deskbound for most of the day? Here are some tips:
- Stand. The simple act of standing forces us to activate our cores (burning calories by using muscle) and is better for our circulation than being seated. A standing desk can help here, and taking phone calls standing can also be an easy boost to your daily motion.
- Stroll. Your day is filled with moments where you can add more steps without structured, designated exercise time. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the far restroom, asking your teammates to walk and talk instead of sit and talk—all of these small shifts can add more motion to your day.
- Samba. Samba is a type of dance, but really what I want you to think about is being more joyful and in motion overall. Bob to the beat of your favorite song as you work, tap your foot, and don’t be afraid to bust a move if the moment inspires you. These little boosts of activity add up, and they might give you a mental boost as well.
There are many more recommendations in Dr. A’s Habits of Health, but I hope that you can already see the takeaway in this philosophy: Don’t save motion for the gym. Weave it in throughout your day.