Everyone knows that exercise is vitally important. Research has shown that people who exercise will live on average 3.7 years longer than those who do not. If you think you're too busy to exercise, think again. Yes, life can be extremely hectic - what with holding down a full time job, commuting, cooking, cleaning, looking after the children or grandchildren and shopping - and yes it can be very difficult to find the time to fit an exercise routine into your packed day. However it can be done and what's more, it can be achieved really quite effortlessly.
Ideally, if you are a really busy person you need to find time to undertake a short burst of exercise several times a day. If you can do this you will see a significant improvement in your health, fitness and your general level of wellbeing. Here's 10 ideas to get you started.
Find Ways to Walk More
This is really as easy as it sounds. If you jump in the car and park at work you can easily find ways to walk more by parking further away from your workplace. Get off the bus a stop or two earlier if you use public transport. Walk the whole way if you live 30 minutes or less away. You can always catch a bus home at the other end of the day. Get out for a walk at lunchtime. Eating lunch at your desk is a definite no-no. You'll benefit from the fresh air and natural light, particularly during the winter. Remember - walking for at least 30 minutes per day will significantly reduce your risks of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other killer diseases.
If you feel confident enough, invest in a bicycle and cycle to work or to your engagements and appointments. Cycling provides a great cardio and lower body workout.
Use the Stairs
Another obvious one. It is very lazy to use escalators and elevators for short trips. Using stairs improves cardiorespiratory fitness and will your reduce risk of heart problems. Climbing the stairs requires you to move your whole body and by doing so you strengthen your abdominal, legs, calf and buttock muscles. It is as effective as aerobic exercise. Five minutes of stair climbing will burn up to 75 calories.
Exercise in the Supermarket
Opt for a basket if you're not shopping for much as this will become a dumbbell to use. Remember to swap arms and exercise both sides. You can perform bicep curls in the aisles by lifting the basket up and down as you go.
Sit on an Exercise Ball
This one won't be for everyone because they may get some funny looks in the office, but if you work somewhere that is progressive why not try sitting on an exercise ball? Sitting on an exercise ball means that your body will constantly need to change its centre of gravity in order to balance. Over a period of hours this simple exercise builds up and you strengthen your abdominal and leg muscles. You'll also improve your sense of balance and your posture.
Get Yourself a Squeeze Ball
If an exercise ball is too big for you, settle for a squeeze ball. Typing all day can lead to painful and uncomfortable conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Hand exercises with a squeeze ball will help to release muscle tension and stress throughout your body, and strengthen your hand muscles.
Calf raises can be performed wherever there is a single step. Facing the step, holding onto a railing, stand with only your toes on it and the back of your feet over the edge. Standing straight up, lower your body down below the level of the stair and then back up onto your toes. This is excellent for working the ankles and calf muscles.
Extend your arms out either side of your shoulders and roll them in circles so that the shoulder joint is being exercised. This may seem simple but the more you do, the more effective it will be. If you can't feel it, hold on to cans of beans.
Do Simple Stretching Exercises
If you're at a desk all day make sure you take time to stretch your arms, legs, neck and torso to prevent stiffness. Stretch your neck by slowly flexing your head forward, backwards and side to side. For ankles and wrists, roll them regularly to improve blood circulation. A great chest stretch to counteract your hunched back and shoulders is to open your arms wide as if you were going to give someone a hug, then rotate the wrists (thumbs going up and back) and pull your shoulders back. This stretch will move your body the opposite way to being hunched and you should feel a good stretch across your upper chest.
For your stomach try contracting your abdominal and gluteal muscles, hold them there for a few seconds, then release. Repeat this every few minutes all day long while you're working at your desk. Practice pelvic floor exercises while you're at it.
Finally a good calf stretch is to lift up your legs on the balls of your feet from a sitting position and then set them down. Repeat this until your legs are reasonably tired. You can repeat this exercise as often as you like. It helps to prevent blood clots from developing in your legs.
Wake Up 15 Minutes Earlier
Waking up 15 minutes earlier will give you time to do some exercises before you take a shower or bath and head off to start your day. You'll be surprised what you can do in 15 minutes – try calf raises, push-ups, sit ups, burpees, planks or wall squats. Or do some yoga or Pilates. Anything that works your muscles and speeds your breathing up is going to help you.
The greatest benefit you'll get from exercise is that it sets you up for the day and you'll feel more alert and energetic as you go about your business. You'll sleep better too - so go for it!