Many of us are aware of the health benefits of regular exercise (running, strength training, cycling, etc.), but non-exercise activity thermogenesis (also known as NEAT) is often overlooked. Things such as household chores, walking to class or work, and even fidgeting all fall under NEAT!
Increasing your non-exercise daily movement can also have major health benefits, such as decreased chances of many chronic health conditions. Some people even think that being lightly active throughout the entire day may be better for your health that only being active when working out once or twice a day.
So how can you increase your non-exercise-related daily movement and, in turn, improve your overall health and well-being? Luckily, it’s not that complicated!
10 simple ways to increase daily movement
park farther away
Many of us try to get the closest parking spot possible whenever we’re driving somewhere. Whether it be your office, a restaurant, the grocery store, nail salon, gym… basically anywhere you visit that has a parking lot!
But what if we tried to park FARTHER away instead? Is that going to make a huge difference in your schedule? Is it going to be an enormous inconvenience to you? Probably not.
Parking farther away is one of the simplest ways to increase your daily movement, yet it seems to be one of the tips that’s often forgotten about.
And while a few extra steps might not make a world of difference in each individual day, those extra steps and extra minutes of movement will compound over time!
take the stairs
Skip the elevator (and the awkward silence you share with strangers!) and take the stairs! Not only will the stairs allow you to move your legs and get some blood flowing, but if you’re going up the stairs, it’s also a pretty nice workout.
As you take the stairs more often, you’ll likely see that you’re able to scale them faster and faster without getting out of breath as fast. And you might even see some booty gains. (;
take movement breaks while working
One of my favorite ways to get in some extra daily movement is to take breaks while I’m working! I’ll usually set a timer for 20-45 minutes (or just watch the clock), and then take a 5-15 minute movement break when it goes off.
Not only does this help me get in some extra movement, but it also helps my mind stay fresh while I’m studying, doing homework, or writing! Plus, it gives me a chance to get my physical energy out, which is SO helpful since I can get really fidgety and restless at times.
schedule exercise into your day
Of course, regular exercise should not be neglected, as it can have major health benefits, AND it helps you knock out some major daily movement.
I always schedule my workout into my day at least a day ahead of time, which helps keep me accountable. Some days you might only be able to fit in a 1-mile run, while others you might have an hour or two to spend at the gym… anything counts!
Remember that things might not always go to plan, and that’s totally fine; that’s life. But if this happens, just pick up where you left off and don’t beat yourself up. (:
If you’re in need of some free at-home workouts, check out this post!
ditch the car & walk or bike
Walking or biking somewhere may not always be totally feasible. For example, if your work is 20 minutes away from your house, and to get there you have to drive on a highway… sure, you could bike it, but it’s probably not the safest idea.
But if walking or biking is an option, consider it! Nick and I usually walk to campus every day for class, and while we could easily drive, it feels so much better to walk. Those 5-10 minutes outside before and after classes gives me some time to relax and clear my busy mind.
If you’re going to start walking or biking somewhere instead of driving, make sure to give yourself a little extra time to get there and back!
work on your feet
Treadmill, bike, and standing desks have been getting more and more popular since the pandemic started and many people have started working from home, which I think is great!
Sitting at a desk and working only your mind for hours on end is not comfortable, exciting, or even enjoyable for most of us. I’m a firm believer that if your body gets moving, your brain will pick up the pace too.
While a treadmill, bike, or standing desk might not be totally attainable for everyone right now, there are other ways to work on your feet! Take phone calls, answer emails, or talk with a coworker while walking around, as opposed to sitting while doing all these tasks.
For some jobs, it’s much easier to work on your feet because that’s the nature of the work. For others, it’s a lot more difficult because your work might be confined to a small desk space. Regardless, there are ways to make it work! You don’t have to be walking on your treadmill desk for 8 hours a day; if all you can manage is taking small movement breaks during your workday, that’s great! Do what you can do. (:
move while watching TV
When I was in middle school, I used to do strength exercises during the commercial breaks of my favorite TV shows. I would pick an exercise and do it for the entire commercial, and then the next one would come on, and I’d pick a different exercise.
Now, most of us use Netflix or Hulu or streaming services that may not have ads. But don’t worry, you don’t need the commercials to workout while watching a show!
You can channel your inner 14-year-old Marissa and do random exercises while you watch the newest crime documentary on Netflix. Or you can hit the gym and strut on the treadmill while binging the newest season of your favorite show.
I love working out while watching TV shows because it makes me forget all about the working out part! (; Plus, you’ll probably find yourself getting excited to go run at the gym because it means you can watch the next episode of your juicy reality show!
I know mixing something fun (working out, obviously) with something you might find not-so-fun (watching TV, duh) can sound like you’re going to end up with two things you hate doing, but trust me… you’ll learn to love them both.
be active with friends
If you’re going to increase your daily movement, why not do it with others?! The more the merrier, right?
While you’re hanging out with friends, suggest going for a walk or hike, heading to the pool, throwing a football around, or playing a pick-up game of basketball. If you want to plan something active in advance, make a golf reservation, plan a gym outing together, or meet each other at a nearby trampoline park.
There are so many ways to be active – by yourself or with others – so figure out what your friends already like to do in order to stay active, and build off of that. Maybe you can even try a new activity together!
make the most while you wait
Have you ever been waiting on something – could be anything – and you were just sitting, scrolling through your phone? Me too!
I think we’ve all been there, and unfortunately, that means we lost out on some precious time that we could’ve used to move around, get our blood flowing, and improve our health.
So next time you’re waiting – whether it be in line at the grocery store or waiting for a friend to pick you up – move around! Do some calf raises in line, walk laps around your house while waiting for your friend. Whatever it is you’re waiting on, don’t sit too long. (;
seek out opportunities to be active
If you’re trying to increase your daily movement, it’s important to be on the lookout for opportunities to be more active. Most of us could be much more active than we are right now, but we often miss out on the chances to get extra movement in because we’re not seeking them out.
Make the habit of daily movement stick at the forefront of your mind. Always be on the lookout for ways to be on the move! Maybe it’s by running an errand for someone, volunteering to plant some trees at a local park, walking to class instead of driving, taking movement breaks while working, or something completely different!
Most importantly: whatever it is you’re doing to increase your daily movement, make sure you’re having fun and making it enjoyable for yourself. And don’t beat yourself up if it’s harder than you thought, or if you have a pretty sedentary day. Nothing to worry about; just pick up where you left off! ((: