Updated: May 3
There is a growing body of evidence that an inactive lifestyle maybe contributing to ill-health and disease. According to the authors of one scientific publication, a systematic review of multiple research studies, inactivity or ‘sedentarism’ possess a distinct risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes, many different types of cancers and cardiovascular disease.
But what does it mean to be inactive?
At its simplest spending the majority of your waking day sitting or in a supine position would constitute as being inactive. The typical lifestyle of modern man/woman is one of physical inertness. After 8 horizontal hours in the sack the majority of people commute to work in a vehicle of some description. Once at their desk they may remain inactive – physically – for another 8-hours. On escaping the office and arriving back home their evening will probably be spent in front of a screen of some description.
This is what it means to be inactive or ‘sedentary’.
Sedentary behaviour: Any waking behaviour characterized by an energy expenditure of 1.5 METS or lower while sitting, reclining, or lying. Most desk-based office work, driving a car, and watching television are examples of sedentary behaviours; these can also apply to those unable to stand, such as wheelchair users.
Though it should come as no surprise that we – humans collectively – are becoming increasingly sedentary. The majority of modern jobs require no physical exertion whatsoever save tapping at a keyboard or shuffling paper. According to the American Heart Association there’s been an 80% increase in ‘sedentary jobs’ since the 1950s. Coupled with automation, lifts, escalators and Segways, people are provided with more opportunities than ever to take the inactive option.
Consequently, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are moving more throughout each day. And don’t think it’s not enough just to tick the 150-minutes-of-weekly-exercise box. It is important to strive to increase activity levels in conjunction with an exercise routine. After all, there are 10,080 minutes in a week. By spending just over 1% of that time exercising does not, I’m sure few will argue, constitute as an active lifestyle.
The aim of this article, then, is to provide you with seven suggestions of how to eek a bit more activity out of each day. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to implement all seven. And even if you could it is doubtful desirable to do so. However, such is the diversity of the suggestions that you are sure to find at least one that will support you in the transition towards a more active lifestyle.
7 Super Simple Ways To Stay Active
1: Walk instead of taking the car
Apparently above 90% of car journeys are unnecessary; not only unnecessary but the distance so short that it could just as easily be covered on foot. And amazingly, because the roads are so congested nowadays, most of those short car journeys would take less time if instead the person walked!
Opting to walk as opposed to taking the car will confer a number of desirable benefits.
For example, walking will reduce your net carbon footprint. Short car journeys are typically more polluting than longer journeys on account of the inefficiency of urban roadways and the energy-consuming penalty one pays when slowing down and speeding up again.
Also, choosing to walk could save you time – on account of the congested roadways which are atherosclerotic with commuter traffic. The average American, according to one study, drives over 1500-miles a year but because they spend so much time in traffic could walk the distance quicker.
Walking will also help you save ‘motoring money’. Of course, every journey you take in a car costs – costs in fuel consumption and in general wear and tear. Thus, by leaving the car on the drive and instead taking the trainers for a spin, you may be financially better off.
But there’s another reason why you should when possible walk instead of drive. According to the NHS (2021) a brisk 10-minute stroll confers a plethora of health benefits and, if you get a step-on and pump the arms at the same time, can contribute towards your recommended 150-minutes of weekly exercise.
And don’t fall into the erroneous assumption that walking is only beneficial for the very unfit and elderly. Some health professionals maintain that ‘walking can be as good as a workout, if not better, than running,’ (NBCnews, 2021). In addition, walking has proven to be effective at supporting people losing weight while also mitigating stress and low-level mental health: it’s no secret that walking is one of the best ways to clear one’s head.
2: Cycle to work
Cycling has been shown to be very beneficial for improving health and fitness. There are hundreds of studies linking regular cycling to the reduction in body fat and lowering of the ‘risk of a number of serious illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.’
In addition, cycling improves cardio-respiratory function and has also been shown to boost mood which in turn can improve the ‘symptoms of some mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.’
The health benefits associated with cycling are so good in fact that one leading publication called the activity a ‘miracle pill’ and suggested that if more people transitioned to pedal power it could ‘save the NHS.’
An impressive overview of benefits by anyone’s standards. And that’s just a brief introductory outline. Believe it or not but cycling offers many more besides. Below is a comprehensive list of the associative health and fitness benefits of cycling.
increased cardiovascular fitness
increased muscle strength and flexibility
improved joint mobility
decreased stress levels
improved posture and coordination
decreased body fat levels
reduced susceptibility or management of disease
could slow the aging process
can improve balance and posture
Another spoke in the wheel of cycling is its relative accessibility. To get the above benefits you don’t need a flashy full-carbon bike or to shrink-wrap yourself in Lycra. And neither do you need to spend 6-hours a day in the saddle. Studies (cited above) have shown that a mere 30-minutes of moderate intensity cycling, 2 to 3 times a week, will promote positive health and fitness improvements.
Cycling to work can be one way to get your 30-minutes in. If you live within 5-miles of your workplace, swopping four wheels for two could be a possible option – even at a relaxed pace 5-miles doesn’t take much longer than 25-minutes. And you may find, as I did, that commuting on your bike instead of in your car is infinitely better: long lines of traffic and rows of red lights will become embuggerances of the past.
3: Purchase a pedometer
The purpose of a pedometer is to count the number of steps you take throughout the day. Simple though this function is it can act as an effective tool to motivate and inspire you to be more active. I personally know a number of people who possess a pedometer and they’re always bragging about how many steps they’ve taken. And they relish the opportunity – any opportunity! – to convert their steps into kilometres travelled: ‘Oh, look,’ exclaims one of my pedometer-wearing compatriots, ‘I’ve walked fifteen-thousand metres today!’
For those people who are either considering or taking active steps to increase their daily activity levels, a pedometer could be just the gadget to facilitate that positive lifestyle change. For not only do pedometers count your steps but they can also stimulate self-competition by encouraging you to exceed your previous day’s step count.
In addition, most pedometers feature a ‘sedentary’ function that notifies you if you’ve remained inactive for too long. This function is designed, of course, to prompt you to move more as well as bringing about awareness of sedentarism.
4: Habituate an exercise routine
Though implementing a regime can bring about a plethora of positives the one that stands out prominent amongst the crowd is improved participation. People who approach exercise on an ad hoc basis are likely to engage in fewer training sessions through the year and, on account to their lacklustre engagement, the associative benefits of regular exercise will not be conferred.
You’ll never reach that fitness goal or achieve that desired weight with one sweat session every other week.
This is not the case for the committed regime follower.
By instituting an exercise regime into the organisation of our daily activities we stand a significantly greater chance of maintaining high levels of participation thus increasing our susceptibility to reaping desirable rewards. Put colloquially: you’ve got to be in it to win it.
Below you will find a 5 Step process to implementing a training regime.
Identify your preferential modality of exercise: gym, running, circuit classes. It’s important to start off with a form of exercise that you find enjoyable, or dislike the least.
Once you’ve identified your preferred mode of exercising you need now to consider for how long you are willing to engage in the exercise: 30/45/60 minutes. In the beginning short exposures are best.
After deciding on the type of exercise and the duration of engagement you must determine the weekly frequency: 2/3/4/5/6/7 x per week. Again, if this is the first fitness regime that you have implemented, it is advisable to start off with 2 weekly sessions and incrementally increase the frequency as the regime becomes more firmly imbedded.
Next plot into your weekly schedule (if you have such a thing) where you plan to actively participate in each exercise session. When you have inputted the sessions you must decree that, come hell or high water, they are immutable; set in stone! To make life easier for yourself consider utilising the Hungry4Fitness Become Your Own Personal Trainer Exercise Programmes.
Now we have reached the point where we must dispense with the theory and get practical. But how do we motivate ourselves to follow a regime faithfully and consistently? Well this is the million-dollar question which has yet to be adequately answered. Is high motivation fortuitous genetic endowment or are the motivated merely adept at designing psychological and environmental strategies that promote the desired behaviour? Perhaps it’s the former, perhaps the latter, or maybe a mixture. Who knows? However, until some smartarse resolves the enigma of motivation, you can make use of a number of motivational techniques that might help you stick with your regime long enough for it to become an ingrained lifestyle habit.
5: Buy a kettlebell
As exercise equipment goes the kettlebell is quite unassuming and it really doesn’t look like a fitness tool at all. But the kettlebell not only is most emphatically a piece of exercise equipment and they can stimulate the body like no other form of exercise that I know of. How do they do this?
Unlike conventional weights, such as dumbbells, barbells or machines, the kettlebell because of its unique shape does not align with the body’s centre of mass. This causes us to have to actively engage our core muscles throughout kettlebell exercises.
Another benefit is improved body strength synchronicity. How can I best describe this term? Well, at its essence, body synchronicity is where we are required to use multiple muscle groups in order to execute an exercise. This is a good thing because it helps to develop whole body strength and fitness.
Furthermore, the kettlebell is a class act at stimulating the cardiovascular system. This much cannot be said of static exercises which do not penetrate beneath the surface musculature – hence why they are used to sculpt the appearance of fitness and not to forge true physicality. Due to the dynamic way in which the kettlebell forces the body to move and the fact that it’s anything but static, most all major muscle groups including the heart are stimulated.
Another the great thing about kettlebells, for all the benefits they can confer they are super-cheap. And because of their diminutive size they can be kept by your desk, bed or stored in your home gym.
6: Form a fitness friendship
A great way to improve your exercise participation, and with it your general levels of activity, is by partnering up with someone who is in the same boat or, better still, is an exercise enthusiast. Forming a fitness friendship is an age-old method that has been known to yield positive results in the exercise apathetic.
By partnering up with a friend you will be more inclined to attend training sessions through fear of letting your partner down. Also, when motivation unsuspectingly deserts, a fitness friend can confer some of theirs – and vice versa.
In addition, by striking up a healthy training partnership you will be more inclined to diversify your training regime. Chances are that your training partner will prefer different forms of exercise to you and you to them. Thus, you can each take it in turns designing the training sessions.
The benefits of this approach are manifold.
For example, by broadening exercise engagement you stand a better chance of developing a diverse physicality. This will not only reduce the likelihood of you developing fitness imbalances, but it can also bring a bit of excitement to your training regime. One of the most common reported reasons why people quit on exercise is because they grow board of completing the same old routines.
A fitness friendship could be just the remedy to banish boredom and keep you actively engaged.
7: Replace your couch with an exercise bike
According to a poll conducted by an independent research group, the average Briton spends over 30 hours a week couch-potatoed in front of their TV. That’s 120hrs a month or a whopping 1340hrs a year! Looked at another way the average Briton squanders 56-days a year vegetated on the couch. 56-days!
Not only is that a whole lot of wasted time right there, but it’s also an awful lot of doing nothing. Sedentarism, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as ‘the habits and routines associated with relatively low levels of activity and movement,’ is a leading cause of concern among health and medical professionals. And for good reason.
According to recent studies a sedentary lifestyle could be a contributing factor to the rise of a number of major diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, one study identified a link between a sedentary lifestyle and early death. The researchers reviewed an extensive range of studies and concluded that, ‘there is a convincing level of evidence that a longitudinal relationship exists between sedentary behavior and all-cause, CVD-related, and all-other-causes mortality risk in men and in women.’
Distilled down to its essence, an inactive lifestyle could cut your life short.
But the good news is, even if you see shades of sedentarism in yourself, introducing more activity into your life is relatively easy. By following the advice in this article, and implementing the quick tips below, you will increase your levels of activity which could dramatically improve your health and wellbeing.
Below is a list of helpful hints and tips to increase levels of activity.
Spend as much of your days as possible in the horizontal position. On account of the heart having to pump harder to circulate blood, the body uses more energy when we are standing.
Always take the stairs, never the escalator or lift.
Walk when possible.
Buy a cheap indoor exercise bike and pedal while watching TV.
Cycle to work instead of driving. But:
If you’ve got to drive, because you live fecking miles away from your place of work, park a ways off so you can get a walk in before you park yourself in front of your desk for the day.
If you use public transport, try standing as much as possible. And, as suggested above, get off a stop earlier so that you can walk.
Consider taking a 30-minute walk during your lunch break.
Set your fitness tracker to notify you if you have remained inactive for too long.
Splash the cash and purchase an indoor exercise bike.
Invest in a standing desk.
Get yourself out of bed 30-minutes earlier and go for a gentle stroll around the block. Or, better still, a slow jog.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.