It can be very difficult to avoid sitting in a chair all day, lounging on a couch all evening and laying in a bed to sleep all night (especially these days) — without much activity in between.
But getting in activity — any activity — each day is critical towards maintaining your overall health, particularly your heart and muscular health.
A recent study from a multinational team of researchers found that any activity, even moderate activity, can reduce the risk of early death in middle- and older-aged adults.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, followed 36,383 adults who were over age 40 for six years. It also analyzed results from eight other studies and found that activity of any level can help keep muscles (including the heart) stronger and going longer.
“When you read about people dying of “natural causes,” it usually means that they died of heart failure because they spent too much time lying in bed,” Dr. Gabe Mirkin wrote in a recent blog post discussing the study.
Mirkin is a fitness guru, longtime radio host and sports medicine doctor with more than 50 years of practice.
“When you become inactive, you lose your skeletal muscles at an alarming rate, and losing skeletal muscle causes loss of heart muscle until your heart can become too weak to pump blood to your brain and you die,” Mirkin says.
The study also found that sitting 9.5 hours a day was associated with an increased risk of death.
“A key to prolonging your life and preventing disease is to keep on moving,” Mirkin says. “Lying in bed for many hours each day is a certain way eventually to kill yourself. Each day that you spend not moving your muscles weakens your heart until eventually you can die of heart failure.
Below are 12 ways to avoid inactivity — ideas for light, moderate and vigorous activity that you can do to improve your heart and muscle health and live longer (even while staying at home):
(*NOTE: Talk to your doctor about engaging in any exercise program to ensure your safety and ability.)
Walking (Slowly): Commit to going on at least two, 20-minute walks a day. Walk around the block. Walk to the mailbox and back. Walk around your house. Anything to get the blood flowing. The pace doesn’t matter. The key is to do it.
Cooking: Cooking typically means you’re on your feet, moving around the kitchen. If you’re on Diet-to-Go’s 5-day-per-week plan, spend the other two days trying out a new, healthy, home-cooked meal. (You can find plenty of great meal ideas on our Pinterest page.)
Washing Dishes: Even a simple home activity like washing dishes can help. It’s also a neat trick to enjoy your Diet-to-Go meals even more. Arrange your meal on a plate and sit down at a table with it. Try to avoid sitting in front of the TV with a meal so you can eat mindfully, focusing on each bite. And of course, clean up right afterwards.
Make the Bed and Do Laundry: Not only can doing this get you moving, but it can also improve your well-being by giving you a comfortable, organized home.
Cleaning: Speaking of having a comfortable, organized home, cleaning is a great activity for getting your heart rate up a bit and keeping your feet moving. You’d be shocked how many steps you’ll get in sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, washing — all the things. (Pro tip: Throw on your favorite playlist to make the process even more enjoyable.)
Brisk Walking: Once you start walking every day, you’ll start to build your endurance — slowly but surely. Start to pick up the pace. Push yourself to walk a bit faster each time by adding distance. If you’re walking outside and have been going around the block each time, for example, commit to veering off onto a side street and going out and back, and then resuming your walk around the block from there.
Gardening: There’s something very satisfying about digging, planting a seed, watering it and tending to it and then watching it grow into something beautiful. Gardening requires effort and definitely can get your muscles working hard. It’s a definite win-win.
Dancing: When you’re home alone and no one’s watching, there’s no better time to crank up the tunes and spin around the house. It may sound strange, but it can actually raise not just your heart rate, but also your mood. (Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing while you do it.)
Jogging: Don’t panic. No one’s saying you have to jog a 5K. Even just a mile, as fast as you can, is so good for you. It doesn’t have to be fast. Any pace works. And the more consistent you are, the better you’ll get at it.
Swimming: Need something low-impact? Laps in a pool is just the thing. Start by swimming across the pool and back. Next time try and do it twice. Build on your endurance each time and, if you get to the point you can swim a mile, you’re really kicking things into high gear.
Jumping Rope: Skipping over a jump rope for 20 minutes can be an invigorating way to get your heart rate up. It’s fun and such a great cardiovascular activity. Pop on some music to really amp things up.
Carrying Heavy Loads: Have a house project that involves carrying some heavy things around? Stop procrastinating and get to it. Working hard on something like that serves many purposes, not the least of which are activity and the sense of accomplishment at the end.
Ultimately, the goal is to make sure you’re not leading a completely sedentary lifestyle. While eating healthy is critical, incorporating fitness into your daily routine is another great way to add years to your life.
What’s your favorite light, moderate or vigorous activity? Share in the comments below!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.