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9 Ways to Sneak Physical Activity Into Your Daily Routine

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Chances are, you barely have time to watch the latest episode of your favorite TV show, let alone hit the gym. You probably feel guilty—after all, you’re wasting a lot of money, plus a sedentary lifestyle can shave years off your lifespan. But if you consistently find yourself working too late to catch a 6:00 p.m. spin class or sleeping through sunrise yoga, you might want to suspend your sports club subscription and brainstorm some creative methods to integrate physical activity into your daily routine.

mental_floss spoke with Lindsay Hunt, a certified integrative nutrition coach and personal trainer. She suggested nine easy ways you can get your heart pounding before, between, after, and even during work calls and meetings.


One recent study indicates that you don’t have to spend hours working out to reap physical benefits from exercise. By performing a single minute of high intensity interval training, you can increase your endurance, improve your insulin resistance levels, and show gains in muscle function. Since you probably shower daily, Hunt recommends committing to brief—but effective—workouts for 7 to 10 minutes before you suds up. “Make it a goal to break a sweat and then hop in the shower and get ready for work,” Hunt says. “My favorite is 10 squats, 10 squat jumps, 10 push ups, 10 burpees, 10 sit ups, 10 bicycle crunches, and 10 jumping jacks. Repeat three times. This works your entire body.”


Take your conference calls standing up, Hunt suggests. This might not sound like exercise, but by kicking your desk chair to the curb you can decrease your blood glucose levels, increase your heart rate, and, yes, burn more calories than if you remain on your posterior.

Case in point: A few years ago, BBC News Magazine teamed up with a group of researchers from the University of Chester in England to conduct an experiment on a group of 10 volunteers. The study's leaders asked participants to stand for at least three hours a day for one week, and they used accelerometers (a movement monitor), heart rate monitors, and glucose monitors to track subjects' physical changes. By the end of the week, the subjects’ heart rates were beating on average around 10 beats per minute higher—meaning they were likely burning about 0.7 more calories per minute. This sounds small, but it adds up to about 50 calories an hour. If you stand for three hours a day for five days, you’re burning 750 extra calories, BBC News Magazine pointed out.

Already own a standing desk? Kick things up a notch and get a wireless headset. That way, you can take brisk walks while conducting official business over the phone. And if your meeting’s in person, ask your co-workers to walk around the office with you or through a nearby park.


Bring sneakers to the office and stash them underneath your desk. At least three times a week, pull them on and commit to taking a 20-minute power walk during the afternoon. “Not only will it up your step count for the day, but it's a great way to de-stress and increase energy during a long day at the office,” Hunt says. Studies suggest that only 20 minutes of brisk, daily walking can reduce the risk of early death by nearly one-third, so consider increasing this amount as time goes on.


Can’t concentrate on your work while standing up? Sit down without guilt—but focus on your body’s position. “Make yourself sit the end of your chair with perfect posture for one hour while working on your computer,” Hunt advises. “Suck your tummy in and roll your shoulders back. You'll find yourself wanting to roll your shoulders forward, but resist.”

We know, we know—fixing your posture isn’t exactly exercise. Still, “sitting up straight and engaging your core will increase your calorie burning while sitting at your desk,” Hunt says.


“Watching your favorite Monday show? Commit to completing a 30-second plank during each commercial,” Hunt says. “Cooking a nightly dinner? Do a round of 15 squats, 15 side leg lifts, and 15 calf raises while standing at the stove each night to keep your legs toned. Walking your dog around the block? Throw on your running shoes and double your walk time, or add in five 60-second sprints." (In 2012, an estimated 52.7 percent of dogs in the U.S. were found to be overweight or obese, so Fido will benefit from this as much as you will!)


Instead of donning pajamas, wear your T-shirt and running shorts to bed. In the morning, roll out of bed and run around the block. This way, you won’t waste time planning and prepping for your workout.

Not a morning person? Don’t worry, Hunt says you’ll still benefit from a 15-minute jog. “It's a common misconception with many of my clients that they must do a full hour of cardio for it to be effective,” she says. “Small bursts of movement or exercise throughout the day can be more effective and burn more fat.” Plus, a short jog will “really wake you up by getting your blood pumping first thing in the morning, leaving you with increased energy and an improved mood," she says.


Ever wanted to do a set of real, full-body military push-ups, or hold a 1-minute plank? Spend a few minutes working toward this specific fitness goal before you go to bed each night. “To tackle 15 military push-ups, you could begin by doing 10 push-ups on your knees and end with one military push-up each night until it becomes easy," Hunt explains. "Then, increase to two military push-ups, and then three, four, five and so on... Or you could work toward the 1-minute plank by holding a 15-second plank on Night 1, a 20-second plank on Night 2, a 25-second plank on Night 3, and so on until you work yourself up to a 1-minute plank."

(To tackle other difficult exercise, like a handstand, pull-up, or pistol squat, check out our step-by-step instructions.)


It’s easier to skip the gym without guilt if you’re paying a flat monthly fee for unlimited classes. If you sign up in advance for pay-per-class exercise activities (think SoulCycle or Pure Barre), you’re forced to shell out the cash in advance—and you’ll lose it forever if you miss your workout. This will give you more incentive to actually attend spin class instead of blowing it off for wine and Netflix.


The internet is full of quick, instructional yoga videos (for more information, check out this helpful list of popular ones, compiled by New York magazine.) Instead of surfing the internet in bed before you catch some Zs, move your computer to the floor and allow a virtual instructor to guide you through a 15-minute stretch routine. “If you sit at a desk all day, your body will thank you for this, big time,” Hunt says.

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Live Smarter
5 Tips for Becoming A Morning Person
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You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that influences your daily routine: when to eat, when to sleep, and when to wake up. Our biological clocks are, to some extent, controlled by genetics. This means that some people are natural morning people while others are night owls by design. However, researchers say the majority of us fall somewhere in the middle, which is good news if you want to train yourself to wake up earlier.

In addition to squeezing more hours out of the day, there are plenty of other good reasons to resist hitting the snooze button, including increased productivity. One survey found that more than half of Americans say they feel at their best between 5 a.m. and noon. These findings support research from biologist Christopher Randler, who determined that earlier risers are happier and more proactive about goals, too.

If you love the idea of waking up early to get more done, but you just can't seem to will yourself from out under the covers, here are five effective tips that might help you roll out of bed earlier.


If you’re a die-hard night owl, chances are you’re not going to switch to a morning lark overnight. Old habits are hard to break, but they’re less challenging if you approach them realistically.

“Wake up early in increments,” Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker at Compassionate Counseling in St. Louis suggests. “If you normally wake up at 9:00 a.m., set the alarm to 8:30 a.m. for a week, then 8:00 a.m., then 7:30 a.m.”

Waking up three hours earlier can feel like a complete lifestyle change, but taking it 30 minutes at a time will make it a lot easier to actually stick to the plan. Gradually, you’ll become a true morning person, just don’t try to force it to happen overnight.


Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, so jumping on the treadmill or taking a run around the block is a great way to start the day on a high note. Also, according to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising early in the morning can mean you get a better overall sleep at night:

“In fact, people who work out on a treadmill at 7:00 a.m. sleep longer, experience deeper sleep cycles, and spend 75 percent more time in the most reparative stages of slumber than those who exercise at later times that day.”

If you don’t have much time in the morning, an afternoon workout is your second best bet. The Sleep Foundation says aerobic afternoon workouts can help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often throughout the night. “This may be because exercise raises your body’s temperature for about four to five hours,” they report. After that, your body’s core temperature decreases, which encourages it to switch into sleep mode.


Whether it’s a noisy street or a bright streetlight, your bedroom environment might be making it difficult for you to sleep throughout the night, which can make waking up early challenging, as you haven’t had enough rest. There are, however, a few changes you can make to optimize your room for a good night’s sleep.

“Keep your bedroom neat and tidy,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based doctor of psychology on staff as an expert in sleep hygiene at Seasons Recovery Centers in Malibu, suggests. “Waking up to clutter and chaos only makes it more tempting to crawl back in bed.”

Depending on what needs to be improved, you might consider investing in some slumber-friendly items that can help you sleep through the night, including foam earplugs (make sure to use a vibrating alarm), black-out drapes, light-blocking window decals, and a cooling pillow

Another simple option? Ditch the obnoxious sound of a loud, buzzing alarm.

“One great way to adapt to rising earlier is to have an alarm that is a pleasing sound to you versus an annoying one,” Dr. Irwin says. “There are many choices now, whether on your smartphone or in a radio or a freestanding apparatus.”


Getting up early starts the night before, and there are a few things you should do before hitting the sack at night.

“Set an alarm to fall asleep,” Torgerson says. “Having a set bedtime helps you stay responsible to yourself, instead of letting yourself get caught up in a book or Netflix and avoid going to sleep.”

Torgerson adds that practicing yoga or meditation before bed can help relax your mind and body, too. This way, your mind isn’t bouncing from thought to thought in a flurry before you go to bed. If you find yourself feeling anxious before bed, it might help to write in a journal. This way, you can get these nagging thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

Focus on relaxing at night and stay away from not just exercise, but mentally stimulating activities, too. If watching the news gets your blood boiling, for example, you probably want to turn it off an hour or so before bedtime.


Light has a immense effect on your circadian rhythm—whether it’s the blue light from your phone as you scroll through Instagram, or the bright sunlight of being outdoors on your lunch break. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, scientists compared the sleep quality of 27 subjects who worked in windowless environments with 22 subjects who were exposed to significantly more natural light during the day.

“Workers in windowless environments reported poorer scores than their counterparts on two SF-36 dimensions—role limitation due to physical problems and vitality—as well as poorer overall sleep quality," the study concluded. "Compared to the group without windows, workers with windows at the workplace had more light exposure during the workweek, a trend toward more physical activity, and longer sleep duration as measured by actigraphy.”

Thus, exposing yourself to bright light during the day may actually help you sleep better at night, which will go a long way toward helping you wake up refreshed in the morning.

Conversely, too much blue light can actually disturb your sleep schedule at night. This means you probably want to limit your screen time as your bedtime looms closer.

Finally, once you do get into the habit of waking up earlier, stick to that schedule on the weekends as much as possible. The urge to sleep in is strong, but as Torgerson says, “you won't want your body and brain to reacclimate to sleeping in and snoozing.”

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New Device Sanitizes Escalator Handrails While They're in Use
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If you have ever hesitated to touch a well-used escalator's handrails for fear of contracting some disease from the masses, LG Innotek has an answer for you. The company just released a handrail sterilizer that uses UV light to kill nearly every germ coating the rubber belts, according to The Verge.

As the railings move with the escalator, they pass through the UV light, which kills 99.99 percent of germs, according to tech developer LG Innotek. The sterilizer is placed just before escalator users hop on, ensuring the handrails are still relatively clean when you grab on at the bottom. The device is a little bigger than a regular hand sanitizer dispenser (around the size of a piece of paper) and starts automatically when the escalator begins moving. It runs on power generated by the movement of the escalator.

UV radiation is used to kill super-germs in hospitals (and one company wants to bring it to planes), but it's relatively easy to use on your phone, your toothbrush, or anywhere else in your house. You can already get handheld UV sterilizers online, as well as aquarium-specific ones. In April 2017, LG Innotek released a faucet that purifies water by UV-sterilizing it inside the aerator. However, the fact that escalator railings are constantly on the move makes them easier to clean automatically than subway railings, door handles, and other potentially germy public surfaces we touch every day.

Bear in mind that while nobody likes getting a cold, germs aren't always bad for you. Some types can even help protect you against developing asthma, as scientists found while researching the health differences between Amish children and their counterparts on more industrialized farms. Whether you touch the handrails or not, cities have their own unique microbiomes, and those ubiquitous bacteria are pretty much guaranteed to get on you whether you like it or not. On the bright side, if you are a germophobe, UV sterilization has been touted as a possible alternative to other antibacterial treatments that cause supergerms.

[h/t The Verge]


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