Step up your physical activity with these simple ways to increase the amount of time you spend moving

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You already know that physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity vigorous per week, averaging between 15 and 30 minutes of exercise per day for five days a week. Meeting these benchmarks is great. However, and not to be discouraging here, they do not form the only barometer of daily activity. Research shows that you can still get recommended physical activity and lead a sedentary lifestyle if your job isn’t very active.

However, you don’t need to quit your day job if it’s a desk job. A few simple steps can help you add more movement to your day.

How many steps should I take per day?

For a long time, step counting was considered a way to measure movement, particularly since daily physical activity cannot be calculated from exercise minutes and intensity alone. The way a person spends the rest of the day is also important.

Typically, the 10,000-step benchmark has been hailed as the gold standard. However, that was based on a 1960s marketing campaign for a pedometer. A study published in October 2022 says that about 8,000 steps can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and conditions, including sleep apnea and diabetes. The problem is that tracking the steps is difficult. You’re probably not counting them, and studies show that some trackers like Fitbit don’t always provide accurate counts. However, they can provide a solid estimate and encourage you to add more movement to your daily activity. Ultimately, the key is to move as much as possible within reason.

man walking his yellow lab

Ways to add more movement to your daily activity

You don’t have to run a marathon to move more each day. Here are some simple tips.

Take the stairs

You’ve probably heard this advice before: Taking the stairs over an elevator or escalator as often as possible is one way to literally intensify your daily activity. There’s a reason this tip is popular: it’s backed by science. The 2021 research found that daily stair climbing may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, characterized by symptoms such as high cholesterol and diabetes, both of which can increase the risk of heart disease.

stretch out at your desk

While desk stretches don’t add to your step count, they do count as movement. Your muscles will thank you if you have a desk job. Although we often focus on stretching to warm up and cool down before and after exercise, sitting in one position for too long can cause stiffness. Try:

  • Reach arms above head
  • Extend your clasped hands behind your back as you push your back
  • Turn your torso to the side and leave your feet on the ground

Lunches and meetings on foot

Give new meaning to packed lunches and gatherings by taking them out on the street. Sandwiches and bottled water are easy to eat and drink while walking. You can do the same for meetings. Mute the video if you’re allowed and walk around your neighborhood while discussing your to-dos with your colleagues. The movement and endorphins may reduce your stress and make you a better employee.

remember to move

It’s easy to get lost in your other daily tasks and forget to move. Some trackers, like the Apple Watch, will automatically prompt you to move if you haven’t moved in a while. If you don’t want to use a tracker or don’t have one, you can simply set reminders on your phone. Try setting a reminder once an hour. When it rings, get up, walk around the office or home, or stretch.

Walk a dog

A dog is always a human’s best friend, but puppies are especially beneficial for people trying to get more physical activity. Research shows that people who walk their dogs generally move more and enjoy health benefits, such as a lower chance of developing a chronic condition, such as cardiovascular disease. If you have a dog, this tip is easy. Make sure the pup gets daily walks (which will also keep him healthy). If you don’t have a dog, consider volunteering at your local shelter. You’ll make a dog’s day (and you can even bring one home).

Exercise is a great way to stay active, but going for a 30-minute run in the morning and sitting for the rest of the day won’t give your body the physical activity it needs. New research indicates that around 8,000 to 9,000 steps per day can reduce your risk of many chronic diseases and conditions while keeping your weight in check. Small actions add up. Try taking the stairs or doing meetings and lunches on foot. Although wearable devices don’t necessarily provide an accurate step count, they can motivate you to move more. Apple Watch reminds people to stand up every hour if they haven’t moved much in the past 60 minutes. You can also set reminders on your phone. Focus on your individual physical and emotional health over the step benchmarks. Everyone (and every body) needs different amounts of movement to stay healthy. A doctor can give you more practical advice.

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