I hate crunches. I hate squats. I hate push-ups. I hate medicine balls. I hate treadmills, ellipticals, and stairmasters. I can give two good weeks of my life to any of the above before I lose interest in it.
Since my college days, the only forms of exercise I’ve been able to enjoy consistently have been running and pick-up basketball. It is in these activities that, every time, I enter an endorphin-fueled state of flow (something that never happens at the gym for me).
There is more to “staying active” than dumbells, barbells, and ellipticals, I realized. What matters is the dozen or so waking hours everyday when we’re not exercising, yet burning a majority or the day’s calories.
That is why I have embraced what is known to doctors as NEAT– Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In normal people terms: burning calories without exercising.
It is about building active habits. I’ve built a few and I’m working on building more. This is what has worked for me.
Our bodies weren’t built to sit. Sitting makes us sleepy and moody. It also puts us at greater risk of heart attack. Standing for 3-4 hours per workday can burn 30,000 calories (ten marathons worth) over the course of a year.
I still do a good chunk of work, especially writing, while sitting. But if I can do my email correspondence and toy with my fantasy football team while standing every day, then that’s plenty.
Do a little research, there’s a good chance your company’s health insurance provider also knows the perils of sitting. Your company is probably eligible for some big insurance deductions if you get yourself a standing desk.
Stairs instead of stairmasters
Unless you are making a journey up 5 or more floors, elevators hardly ever save you time. Elevators save your legs from doing work and, more often than not, put you in a painfully awkward social situation.
Do the work. Spare yourself a minute of avoiding eye contact with a semi-stranger. Your legs will thank you when you get to the fifth floor for a boring hour-long meeting.
There is no better indicator of an inactive day than restless dog. Some fetch or a 15-minute walk is sometimes the only activity either my pooch or I get in a given day, but it’s better than nothing.
Biking to work
I live about three miles from where I work. If it isn’t pouring rain, I’ll take the bike on over, and much like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, I’m much more chipper when I arrive.
It has also been found that those who take public transit to work tend to be healthier than those who drive to and from work.
Different solutions work for different people. But we can all build better, more active habits.