Most people who know that I’m a fitness professional (clients, friends, and family alike) share how difficult it is to achieve their fitness goals. While it DOES often take a concerted effort and a long period of TIME to reach our desired outcomes, I would actually argue that physical fitness is very SIMPLE.
The problem is that, through pop culture, we’ve been taught that there are magic pills in the form of restrictive diets, specialized workout programs, and herbal detoxes. Popular media shares fantastic stories about celebrities who have transformed their bodies, bulked up, or shed 50-100 pounds fast and convinces us that if we buy the right products or follow the exact system they did, WE can too.
But probably not.
And if you do, research shows that the results of such intensive programs probably won’t last.
So what’s the solution?
If you’re just starting out with exercise or you’ve been struggling to find something that will work, my #1 physical fitness tip is this: Move more daily.
Whether you’re trying to get stronger, boost your endurance, get more flexible, or lose weight, you can benefit from increasing the amount of activity you do every day.
Consequences of Lack of Movement
Have you heard the saying that sitting is the new smoking? Well, there’s a reason for that. Being sedentary can cause a slew issues over time, including but not limited to:
- Muscular Imbalances – such as weak glutes, quads, hamstrings, and back muscles
- Pain and stiffness in muscles and joints – most notably, lower back, neck, shoulders, knees, and feet
- Decrease in Bone Density – which can increase your chances of getting injured during daily life activities
- Increased Chances of Developing mental and physical health Conditions – such as anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer
- Lowered Metabolism – which can lead to extreme lethargy or lack of energy, mental sluggishness or fatigue, constipation, and weight gain,
Even having a lightly active job, where you’re standing and moving around a bit (ie. service workers, teachers, retail, etc.) doesn’t guarantee that you’re getting enough movement throughout the day. If you experience any of the above, you may benefit from moving more.
How to Turn It Around and Improve Your Physical Fitness
Being sedentary, for most of us, is a bad habit that we learned over a lifetime of sitting at our desks in school and then standing or sitting still on the job. Changing that habit for good will take time and a concerted effort, both mentally and physically. Here’s how you can get started.
Observe and Assess Your Levels of Daily Movement
The first step in the process of shifting your movement habit is to observe where you are right now. Here’s how you can figure out how much movement you’re getting in.
Track Your Total Steps
Tracking will give you a baseline number of how many steps you are currently taking throughout the day. Most smart watches have this feature already, so you don’t have to do anything extra. Simply make sure that the tracking feature is activated and check your log at the end of the day. If you’re like me and don’t have a smart watch, download a steps tracking app on your phone. Just make sure to keep your device on you when you move around throughout the day.
For the first day or two, don’t do anything different. Although it’s tempting to do more than usual, it’s better to get an idea of your typical physical output so that you have a goal to aim for in the future. On the low end, getting 4,000 or less steps signifies that your activity level is LOW. 5,000 to 8,000 steps is AVERAGE. 9,000 to 15,000 is ABOVE AVERAGE.
[Note: If you’re already getting in an above average level of steps, congratulations! You’re already where you need to be when it comes to activity. You may need to focus on your nutrition plan instead].
Notice How Frequently You Move
Many people I know who work out, but still struggle with their physical fitness will go hard during their workouts for 45-90 minutes, then spend the rest of their day sitting or standing in one place. When I ask how long they spend at their computer for one given period of time, a common response is “Sometimes I work for 4 hours straight without moving.” Yikes! Does this sound like you?
Perhaps overall you’re physically fit, but still experience many of the ailments I listed above (i.e. tightness, pain, etc.). You can likely benefit from spreading your activity throughout the day.
Implement New Habits to Improve Your Physical Fitness
Adopting the following habits can help you move more in total and move more frequently so that you can start increasing your physical fitness.
Stand Up Frequently When You’re Working
The tides are changing. Quite a few companies recognize the need for employees to stretch their legs during the workday, which is why standing desks and desks with adjustable height are getting more and more popular. It may be time to invest in one yourself. Some clients I’ve spoken to say that their employers foot the bill for their switch. If you don’t have a standing desk or prefer the seated variety, at the very least, make sure to stand up frequently for a quick stretch.
Learn to Fidget
Being in one position for long periods of time can put pressure on your joints and lead to muscle weaknesses and tightness. Shift positions frequently to prevent this. Here are a few alternatives to your typical seated position:
- Stand up
- Sit on your chair with one knee pointed toward the floor
- Sit cross-legged on the floor or on a bolster
- Kneel at your desk or a coffee table instead of sitting (this is a personal favorite of mine)
- Lay on your belly using a bolster
- Lay on your back
- Sit on the floor, your couch, or your bed with your legs straight or wide
- Sit in Deer Pose
Take at Least ONE Walk Each Day
Walking is a great way to get some light to moderate cardio in. It’s also an effective way to improve the mobility in your hips and to strengthen your muscles and bones. A daily 30-45 minute walk can vastly improve your health. If you don’t have time to take a long walk, a great way to fit in more walking is to take frequent short breaks while working to:
- Get up and use the restroom
- Head to the water fountain to refill your bottle
- Take your next call on-the-go
- Go speak to a coworker at their desk rather than sending an email
- Head to the breakroom or your car for a dance break
If you can’t get away from your desk, stand up during a zoom meeting or phone call and march in place or step side to side. If you’re at the office, your co-workers may think it’s a bit odd at first, but hey, what’s worse? Watching your health slowly decline or looking a little silly at work? PS – In case you were wondering… it’s the former.
If you’re struggling to find the time to get more steps in each day, I run a yearly steps challenge during which I send daily texts with motivational messages and tips to help get you moving.
Follow me on Instagram so you can get notified when the next steps challenge is happening.
Aim for Structured Exercise 2-3x a Week
I had to throw this in. As we age, our bodies need a variety of types of workouts to function at their best. To name a few:
- Resistance training
- Cardiovascular training
- Targeted Mobility Work
These don’t have to be hard at the beginning. In fact, it’s better to start with easier workouts, so that you build up a base of core strength and a habit of exercising regularly. Once you are consistent, you can increase the difficulty or seek out a regimen that’s more tailored to your goals.
Implement ONE Tip Today to Improve Your Physical Fitness
Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get started. You can start improving your physical fitness today by implementing just one of the tips mentioned above. I recommend taking at least two to three weeks to really nail that one habit. Once you’ve made it a part of your daily routine, add another. Lasting change takes time, so instead of rushing into yet another crazy hard workout regimen or elimination diet, aim to get more movement in starting today. I have full faith in you!