It was Sunday evening and I looked at my schedule for Monday and realized that the office had gotten very busy, so there wasn’t going to be time to do a formal exercise routine that Monday. Some days, I can take some of my clients for outdoor powerwalks and at least I know I can get that aspect done. So, I started planning my Monday. Here I was going to be too busy to exercise but how could I take care of my health and get in enough activity to make a difference?
So, the first thing I decided was to get in an early morning walk. I woke up 15 minute earlier and walked very briskly 15 minutes there and 15 minutes back. Now I had 30 minutes of aerobic exercise under my belt to start the day. When I got home, I took 6 flights of stairs up to my apartment instead of using an elevator. Now it was time to go to work. I walked back down the stairs and a drove in. I came into the office, put away my things and got to work. I checked my fitness tracker and saw that I had already accumulated 3,850 steps and 7 flights of stairs—a good way to start the day.
It’s 1 p.m. and time for a break and run an errand. 3 flights of stairs up and then afterwards back down. Before my next client arrived, I got down on the floor and did 30 pushups and 50 sit ups, which took me 2 and a half minutes. Now it was time for lunch and back to work. After the next client, I walked to my bank to deposit a check and walked back, a total of 18 minutes. When I got back to the office I spent 90 seconds doing bench dips and a few stretches made for people who sit at a desk much of their day. Then back to work!
My day finished at 6:30 p.m. I drove home, I ate supper, and took a short rest before walking to a lecture being given in my neighborhood. Coming back from the lecture involved 6 flights of stair within the walking. The day was coming to a close. I checked my fitness tracker and saw that over the course of this day, I had climbed 17 flights of stairs and had walked 8,500 steps over the course of the day and the first 30 minutes were definitely sustained within the aerobic pulse range.
I didn’t do a formal workout that Monday and I didn’t go to a gym. I didn’t set aside an hour a half to work out. I simply fit it into my day while accomplishing tasks I had to do anyway. What did all this get me?
Let’s first look at the stairs I climbed throughout the day. Stair climbing requires significant energy and burns plenty of calories in a short period of time. Because of this, you can achieve the benefits of a longer, more moderate workout in a shorter amount of time. Stair climbing requires no special equipment and can be performed by most exercisers, regardless of their fitness level. During stair climbing, you use your leg muscles to pull yourself up. You’ll work your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors and core body.
A 150-pound person can burn 7 calories per minute when climbing at a moderate intensity, according to Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise in a “New York Times” interview. So if you do steps intensely (2 stairs at a time) you can burn far more calories. Researchers also found that people who use stairs experienced reduced heart rate (a sign of good fitness), improved oxygen uptake and had increased their high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, numbers.
Now how about the almost hour of accumulated walking that happened? People who walk more than 30 minutes most days of the week get the following benefits:
- Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness.
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes.
- Stronger bones and improved balance.
- Increased muscle strength and endurance.
- Reduced body fat.
If you are stuck at your desk most of the day, here are a few things you can do that are highly beneficial to your health and you can do them right in your office:
- Just stand up and sit down — no hands
- Shrug your shoulders — to release the neck and shoulders. Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold. Release and drop. Repeat three times.
- Shake your head slowly, as if saying yes and no.
- Loosen the hands with air circles. Clench both fists, stretching both hands out in front of you. Make circles in the air, first in one direction, to the count of ten. Then reverse the circles and shake out your hands.
- Release the upper body with a torso twist. Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left. With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch — see how far around the room you can peer. Slowly come back to facing forward. Repeat on the other side.
- Stretch your back with a “big hug”. Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder. Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.
- Sit up tall in your chair, or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers. Turn the palms to the ceiling as you lift your chin up, tilt your head back, and gaze up at the ceiling, too. Inhale, exhale, release.
All of this is just increased activity. And the benefits are immense. Just by making a few changes, like parking your car a few blocks from your destination, not using elevators, getting off public transportation a stop or two before your intended stop, or walking from place to place into your day, you can reap enormous benefits to your physical and mental health. This doesn’t preclude the need for formal exercise! We still have to schedule that into our day. But when things don’t work out for you, and you are having “one of those days” and you just can’t fit the formal exercise into your day, being active will “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”