This article is part of a series in collaboration with ParticipACTION. Discover how "Everything gets better when you get active!"
You don’t need a gym membership, a high-intensity exercise routine, or pricey workout equipment to reap the many health-promoting rewards of physical activity. All you need to sleep better, heal better and happy better is to break up the time you spend every day sitting or being sedentary with movement.
Consistent physical activity brings with it a range of benefits that affect us in almost every area of our lives. It improves sleep, boosts immunity, improves concentration and focus, and acts as a mood-lifter. Regular physical activity can even help forge stronger social connections with friends, family and our community.
To enjoy those benefits, it’s recommended that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each week. That works out to be about 20 minutes of movement a day. Signs that you’re in the moderate-to-vigorous zone include breathing harder, elevated heart rate, and even some light sweating.
You can achieve these health-supporting physical effects and rack up your recommended movement minutes in countless ways. Here are five stress-free suggestions on how to increase your activity levels without adding extra expenses to your daily life:
1. Take an activity “snack” break
Don’t dismiss the benefits of taking the “snacking” approach to increasing your movement time each day. Small bouts of physical activity (think from five to 10 minutes) can have immediate positive effects on your energy levels and state of mind. Going for a brisk walk around the block, performing a five-minute bodyweight exercise circuit, putting your favourite song on repeat and dancing in the kitchen – these are just a handful of ways you can get your heart rate up and the blood flowing. It all adds up!
2. Go for a walk
Have 10 or 20 minutes free? Slip on a pair of comfortable walking shoes and get moving – indoors or outdoors. Walking is one of the most effective means of upping your daily physical activity levels, and it’s also one that brings with it a long list of benefits. Walking can contribute to improved cardiovascular fitness, better mobility, reduced joint pain and maintaining a healthy weight. According to a U.K. study, a short 15-minute walk may even help curb your cravings for sweets.
3. Find joy in variety
Routine can start to feel, well, routine, and physical activity should make you feel energized and not bored. Don’t get so stuck in your routine that you forget to try something new. To keep things interesting, go online. There are tons of free workout videos where you can sample everything from dance lessons to kickboxing, yoga and Pilates. Additionally, there are many free apps that can help you go from walking to jogging over the course of a few weeks or that offer simple, short and effective exercise routines for every level. Moving your body should bring you joy, so find something – or many things – that feel good.
4. Build strength using your bodyweight
It’s recommended that adults get at least two strength-building sessions in each week. That doesn’t mean you need to invest in weights or pump iron. You can tone your muscles simply by using household items like soup cans and dish detergent jugs instead of weights or by performing bodyweight exercises like push-ups (there are endless modifications according to ability), lunges, squats and calf raises. Aim to perform a circuit of three to five bodyweight exercises at 10 to 15 reps per movement.
5. Get outside
Moving our bodies in nature is one way to make physical activity more enjoyable. Research suggests that not only do we experience physiological changes outdoors that contribute to reduced feelings of stress and a greater sense of well-being (even sitting outside on a park bench can positively affect our stress levels) but performing physical activity outdoors may even change how we feel about our exertion. Research from the U.K. suggests that exercising outdoors can make us workout harder and enjoy it more, too. Walking, wheeling, biking, swimming, tossing a frisbee – getting outside and moving in nature is a win-win.
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