It doesn’t take much to ease your way into being more active. These twelve tips will have you working up a sweat—and in some cases, make you more eager to exercise—in no time. By Myatt Murphy, author of the Ultimate Dumbbell Guide
Dressing up in work clothes that give you more room to move may actually help you do just that. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin discovered that subjects who wore clothing that was more casual to work took an average of 491 extra steps a day and burned roughly 8% more calories—compared to subjects who wore more restrictive outfits.
For some people, getting in shape is a means to an end—whether that’s preparing for an upcoming vacation, that high school reunion, or to look good in time for summer. Instead of waiting for the right event to come along, try booking a trip specifically so you’ll “have” to get in shape. Paying for the trip in full and reserving days off will leave you little choice but to think about how to lose calories—just so you don’t waste the time and money.
Try to find a volunteer group that will require you to do something physical to help out. Not only will you burn calories, but knowing you have others relying on you will hold you more accountable to stay the course—and in turn, stay active.
There’s a reason why watching kids is exhausting—it’s not just a chance to bond, it’s an opportunity to burn calories. Once the play date is set, try to plan activities for them that you know will keep you up and active, like playing tag, hopscotch, skipping rope, or running around the park.
Intentionally park your car in the farthest spot possible, skip the elevator and use the stairs instead, use a basket when shopping instead of a cart, or, simply leave the things you use every day—like your keys, phone, shoes, etc.—in places where you’ll have to walk a little farther for them.
One of the biggest reasons many people stay sedentary is that they spend most of their time being sleepy. Not getting enough sleep not only leaves you with less energy, but it can make you more anxious and stressed (meaning, even if you have the energy to be active, you may not find yourself in the mood to bother). The trick: Make sure you’re allowing yourself at least eight hours of sleep each night, adding an extra hour if you actually do exercise at least 3 to 4 times a week.
If starting a running routine or jumping into the latest fast-paced, fat-burning aerobic class feels too intimidating, start small with an activity that you feel more comfortable with, even if it’s not one that really gets your heart pumping. Choosing less intense activities such as walking, gardening, or stationary cycling may feel less effective at getting you in shape and burning calories, but they also let you exercise at a pace that’s easier to maintain for a longer period of time at a much safer speed.
The moment you sit to do anything at home (surf the internet, read, watch TV), limit yourself to ten minutes (or whatever timeframe that works for you), then make a point to get up and walk around for five minutes. Forcing yourself to take five not only helps burn a few calories in between activities that aren’t active, but it can also increase your odds of stepping into another activity that may be more physical. At work you might try the same approach: take a five minute walk every hour or so.
Instead of using a chair to watch TV, sit at your desk or eat dinner with the family, try sitting on a stability ball. Even though your body isn’t technically moving as you sit, using a ball forces your muscles to actively work—and burn calories—just to keep you balanced.
Whenever most people look at themselves in the mirror, they make certain unconscious adjustments to appear better that go beyond the typical “sucking in of the belly,” such as drawing back their shoulders to improve their posture. Instead, give your friends permission to catch you off-guard with their camera phone when you least expect it. Seeing a few shots of how you “really” appear to others can sometimes be just the wake-up call you need to get motivated.
Find that one activity you can’t live without—such as talking on the phone, watching your favorite show, or shopping online—then only allow yourself to do it as you exercise or immediately afterwards.
Instead of aiming for a big goal—such as losing 20 pounds—try setting much smaller, less intimidating goals that are easier to achieve and may cause you to exercise more. For example, your goal could be “I will run 5 minutes of my 45 minute-walk” or “I will get to the gym 10 minutes earlier than usual.” Small goals are easier to reach and usually lead to bigger success in the long run.