Incidental exercise refers to physical activity that one engages in as part of their everyday routine. This might include gardening, walking up and down the stairs of your home, or dancing to music as you cook. Essentially, this is a form of exercise that doesn’t take a substantial amount of time away from your regular routine. When you maximise incidental exercise, you can increase your fitness levels in a much easier and more manageable way than hitting the gym. The key is to consider your daily routine and make small tweaks that give you greater opportunities to move your body.
Walk or Ride Your Bike Instead of Driving
A lot of us spend a significant amount of our typical day travelling from one point to another. Since most of us use cars as our primary form of transport, this also means that we spend a lot of time sitting down. The positives of travelling by car include that it is generally quicker and, of course, weather-proof. But the morning commute can also be slow and stressful, and finding a decent parking space can be a pain. For shorter journeys, why not try swapping your car for a bike? Biking is excellent exercise, and it’s fast, so it won’t add a ton of time to your work commute or weekend outing. When the weather is nice, it also gives you a great opportunity to get some fresh air and sunshine. Overall, it can be a really fun and energising way to start your work day or spend a leisurely afternoon — plus it’s environmentally friendly!
Use a Standing Desk
If you have an office job, you probably spend quite a lot of time sitting behind a desk. This can cause all kinds of bodily aches and pains, and ultimately means that you’re not moving much at all throughout the day. To solve this problem, consider getting a standing desk. These desks allow you to stand comfortably while you work, and have numerous health benefits. Studies suggest that using a standing desk can boost your energy levels and productivity, reduce your back pain, lower your blood pressure and even lower your chances of getting heart disease. While these desks are designed for standing, they are often adjustable, so you can choose to sit down when required. If a standing desk isn’t for you, however, there are alternative solutions. Set a reminder in your phone to stand up for 2–3 minutes every hour throughout the working day.
Take Advantage of Chores
When it comes to chores, it can be very tempting to cut corners. Chores are boring, time-consuming and never-ending, so it’s only natural that we should find ways to make them as easy as possible. This might mean investing in new technologies so that the effort required to do the chore is minimised. It could also mean paying for a service to complete the chore for you. In the case of, for example, bringing the shopping in from the car, it might mean carrying several loads in at once. However, viewing your chores as opportunities for easy and productive exercise will make them feel much more worthwhile. Take several trips to get the shopping in and you’ve increased your steps for the day! Mowing the lawn, washing the car and pulling the weeds also become instances of incidental exercise. Take advantage of these chores and listen to music or a podcast when you complete them — you’ll feel much better about how you spend your time!
Find More Opportunities to Walk
The numerous health benefits associated with walking often go under-appreciated. It may not be the most rigorous form of exercise, but it’s still good for you, and it’s easy to incorporate into your everyday life. If you want to improve your fitness, we encourage you to find more opportunities to walk every day. This could mean getting off the bus at an earlier stop than you usually would, and walking the rest of the way to your destination. It could also mean parking further away from where you need to go, or taking the stairs rather than an escalator or elevator. Making the most out of your lunch break is also a great idea. If possible, try to walk around rather than sit in the break room or in your car. If you want to take things a little further, you could introduce walking meetings into your work routine. Some people even foster dogs as a way to get outside more, and this option can do a world of good in more ways than one.
The point of incidental exercise is essentially to engage in physical activity that is low effort and a minimal time commitment. But it’s also helpful if you find ways to enjoy these little pockets of exercise. Dance around the house to your favourite songs. Take your kids to the park or play with your dog. You could even explore a new hobby, like rollerblading or ice skating, that doesn’t feel like a chore. The next time you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the microwave to heat up your food, take the chance to do squats or star jumps. These little bursts of energy will boost your mood and wake you up in the middle of a boring day. All of these small moments will eventually add up to a healthier, happier lifestyle.