How to move more without going to the gym

Adding exercise to your daily routine can reduce your risk of major illnesses - and you don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to see the benefits.

Did you know that one in four people do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week, according to Sport England? This might not be that surprising when we consider how much free time we may have to dedicate to exercise.

Yet, research shows that adding exercise to your daily routine can reduce your risk of major illnesses and increase your level of endorphins, which impact your mood. So how can we get more exercise into our busy schedules? Well, the good news is that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to see the benefits. Physical exercise can be anything from walking or gardening – and doing more of what you love can have just as many benefits as a gym workout.  

To help you out, we’ve put together some ways to help you move more. 

5 ways to move more without going to the gym  

1. Walk where possible   

Whether you are working from home, the office, or a café, make it your mission to go for a walk before you hunker down for the morning.   

GOV.UK says that just ten minutes of brisk walking a day is an easy way for adults to introduce more moderate-intensity physical activity into their day and reduce their risk of early death by up to 15% [4].   

Try walking around the block or stopping at a park before the day kicks in. If you usually get somewhere and take the lift, switch it up and walk up the stairs. It’s a simple yet effective way to increase your heart rate and daily step count.   

If you can swap your usual method of transport for walking, you may be able to make some cost savings too. 

2. Step up, stand up  

British people spend 8.9 hours of their day sitting down [5]. Many jobs, especially office-based roles, involve hours of sitting at a desk with little movement throughout the day. 

Long periods of sedentary behaviour have been linked to several long-term health conditions such as [6]:  

  • Heart disease  
  • Type 2 diabetes  
  • Cancers  
  • Poor mental health  

Evidence suggests that spending more time on your feet can increase productivity and improve performance within the workplace [6]. Try standing every hour (you could even throw in some star jumps or squats – if you’re feeling extra active!).   

To decrease your risk of these conditions and increase your steps, you could:  

  • Try standing for meetings  
  • Walk around during phone calls  
  • Take a coffee break outside  
  • Have a meeting outdoors/on a walk  

3. Try a short workout on your lunch (or before work)  

Do you often find yourself eating your lunch at your desk whilst attempting to reply to emails?  

You could use your lunch break to go out for a jog or do a short, high-intensity workout. Many gyms now offer dedicated lunch break gym classes, or there are free classes to follow on apps like Adidas or Nike. Getting outside with your colleagues for a walk can also help you reach your daily 30-minute exercise goal.  

Exercising in the morning is also a great option. Cortisol is naturally the highest first thing (the hormone that keeps you alert and awake). So, working out in the morning means you're taking advantage of this boost of energy, rather than saving a workout for the evening when our bodies are starting to prepare for sleep. 

4. Get on your bike  

During the lockdown, bike sales went up by a whopping 63% in the UK [7]. And what better way to put that lockdown purchase to beneficial use than cycling to work or at the weekend?   

Cycling could save money on commuting, and improve cardiovascular function, mental wellbeing, and energy levels [8]. However, we know that long commutes, school runs, and busy work schedules can make it tough to commit to cycling to work.  

Try these ways to make some of your daily trips more active:  

  • Leave earlier and park your car further away on the school run 
  • Get off the bus or tube a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way 

5. Sneak activity into sedentary times  

Who says you have to sit down to watch TV? Moving during your favourite show can be an easy way to keep your activity up. 

Whether you’re getting into the new Bridgerton or are sitting down for MasterChef, it’s a great time to try: 

  • Stretching – simple forward bends, cat and cow, or down dog 
  • Bodyweight, core, or arm exercises – squats, lunges, sit-ups, or press-ups 
  • Raising your heart rate – star jumps, skipping, or jogging on the spot 

Track your progress  

Here are some of the ways you can track the progress of your initiatives:  

1. Body Mass Index  

For some people, losing weight might be one of their top priorities. But the scales shouldn’t be the only number you’re watching. Read more about BMI and five alternative measurements to consider

2. Mood diary  

Make a note of your mood every day to see how it changes. You can track this on your phone, in a written diary, or on your calendar.   

 3. Resting heart rate  

If you have a fitness watch, you’re likely to see your resting heart rate reduce with regular exercise. It doesn’t have to be heavy exercise either. Meditative practises like yoga can also help lower your heart rate [9].  

4. Blood testing  

 Regular exercise can help to improve many blood testing biomarkers, including:   

  

These biomarkers are all included in our Advanced Well Woman and Advanced Well Man Blood Tests.  We also offer a range of Sports Performance tests where you can measure your fitness baseline and track your progress. 

If you’re unsure which test is right for you, go to the test finder to see your top recommendations.  

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References  

  1. Guthold, R., Stevens, G., Riley, L. and Bull, F. (2018). Worldwide trends in insufficient physical activity from 2001 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 358 population-based surveys with 1·9 million participants. The Lancet Global Health, 6(10), pp. e1077-e1086.   
  2. Hills, A., Andersen, L. and Byrne, N. (2011). Physical activity and obesity in children. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45, pp.866-870.   
  3. https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/diet-and-exercise/physical-activity/latest#:~:text=and%20gender%20Summary-,The%20data%20shows%20that%3A,those%2048.5%25%20were%20physically%20active   
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/focus-on-brisk-walking-not-just-10000-steps-say-health-experts   
  5. http://www.getbritainstanding.org/   
  6. Biswas, A., Oh, P., Faulkner, G., Bajaj, R., Silver, M., Mitchell, M. and Alter, D. (2015). Sedentary Time and Its Association with Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), p.123.   
  7. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/08/03/bike-sales-increased-63-during-lockdown-reveals-uks-bicycle-association/?sh=7a02bdc67e12   
  8. Active Working (2019). Costs of Prolonged Sitting to the Employer, Costs of Absenteeism, Cost of Presenteeism. [online] Getbritainstanding.org. Available at: http://www.getbritainstanding.org/sitting-cost.php [Accessed 19 Aug. 2019].   
  9. Reimers, A., Knapp, G. and Reimers, C., 2018. Effects of Exercise on the Resting Heart Rate: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Interventional Studies. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 7(12), p.503.  

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