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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.

1. SWEAT BEFORE SHOWERING.

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.”

2. STAND UP DURING CONFERENCE CALLS.

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.

3. HIDE TENNIS SHOES UNDER YOUR DESK.

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.

4. SIT UP STRAIGHT.

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.

5.COMBINE AN ACTIVITY YOU "HAVE" TO DO WITH EXERCISE.

“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!)

6. WEAR YOUR GYM CLOTHES TO BED.

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.

7. BECOME GOAL-ORIENTED.

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.)

8. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS.

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.

9. CREATE AN EVENING WIND-DOWN REGIMEN.

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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science
New Patient Test Could Suggest Whether Therapy or Meds Will Work Better for Anxiety
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Like many psychological disorders, there's no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients with anxiety. Some might benefit from taking antidepressants, which boost mood-affecting brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Others might respond better to therapy, and particularly a form called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Figuring out which form of treatment works best often requires months of trial and error. But experts may have developed a quick clinical test to expedite this process, suggests a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have noted that patients with higher levels of anxiety exhibit more electrical activity in their brains when they make a mistake. They call this phenomenon error-related negativity, or ERN, and measure it using electroencephalography (EEG), a test that records the brain's electric signals.

“People with anxiety disorders tend to show an exaggerated neural response to their own mistakes,” the paper’s lead author, UIC psychiatrist Stephanie Gorka, said in a news release. “This is a biological internal alarm that tells you that you've made a mistake and that you should modify your behavior to prevent making the same mistake again. It is useful in helping people adapt, but for those with anxiety, this alarm is much, much louder.”

Gorka and her colleagues wanted to know whether individual differences in ERN could predict treatment outcomes, so they recruited 60 adult volunteers with various types of anxiety disorders. Also involved was a control group of 26 participants with no history of psychological disorders.

Psychiatrists gauged subjects’ baseline ERN levels by having them wear an EEG cap while performing tricky computer tasks. Ultimately, they all made mistakes thanks to the game's challenging nature. Then, randomized subjects with anxiety disorders were instructed to take an SSRI antidepressant every day for three months, or receive weekly cognitive behavioral therapy for the same duration. (Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of evidence-based talk therapy that forces patients to challenge maladaptive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to modify their emotions and behavior.)

After three months, the study's patients took the same computer test while wearing EEG caps. Researchers found that those who'd exhibited higher ERN levels at the study's beginning had reduced anxiety levels if they'd been treated with CBT compared to those treated with medication. This might be because the structured form of therapy is all about changing behavior: Those with enhanced ERN might be more receptive to CBT than other patients, as they're already preoccupied with the way they act.

EEG equipment sounds high-tech, but it's relatively cheap and easy to access. Thanks to its availability, UIC psychiatrists think their anxiety test could easily be used in doctors’ offices to measure ERN before determining a course of treatment.

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Food
A Pitless Avocado Wants to Keep You Safe From the Dreaded 'Avocado Hand'
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The humble avocado is a deceptively dangerous fruit. Some emergency room doctors have recently reported an uptick in a certain kind of injury—“avocado hand,” a knife injury caused by clumsily trying to get the pit out of an avocado with a knife. There are ways to safely pit an avocado (including the ones likely taught in your local knife skills class, or simply using a spoon), but there’s also another option. You could just buy one that doesn’t have a pit at all, as The Telegraph reports.

British retailer Marks & Spencer has started selling cocktail avocados, a skinny, almost zucchini-like type of avocado that doesn’t have a seed inside. Grown in Spain, they’re hard to find in stores (Marks & Spencer seems to be the only place in the UK to have them), and are only available during the month of December.

The avocados aren’t genetically modified, according to The Independent. They grow naturally from an unpollinated avocado blossom, and their growth is stunted by the lack of seed. Though you may not be able to find them in your local grocery, these “avocaditos” can grow wherever regular-sized Fuerte avocados grow, including Mexico and California, and some specialty producers already sell them in the U.S. Despite the elongated shape, they taste pretty much like any other avocado. But you don’t really need a knife to eat them, since the skin is edible, too.

If you insist on taking your life in your hand and pitting your own full-sized avocado, click here to let us guide you through the process. No one wants to go to the ER over a salad topping, no matter how delicious. Safety first!

[h/t The Telegraph]

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