Here is a list of ideas for how to get more movement into your everyday life. This was first published in Easy Fitness for Quitters. Available wherever you buy your books or ebooks!
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and I am sure you will have some of your own. The idea is to start thinking about moving more and where you could add more movement into your day. Become more aware of when you are sedentary or times you might be taking the easy option or avoiding movement. Here are some ideas you could try:
Balance on one leg, one minute on each side, while cleaning your teeth. Balancing on one leg is really good for your core strength. If it’s too easy for you, try doing it with your eyes closed…
Do a slow-as-you-can squat while cleaning your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil. This is fantastic for your leg strength. If you can make a squat last a whole minute, i.e. 30 seconds to go down and 30 seconds to come back up again, you’ll certainly feel it.
Dance! Put your favourite tunes on in the kitchen while cooking or doing chores. The crazier and more vigorous the dance moves the better, especially with someone else you can have a laugh with.
Muck about with the kids (yours or a friend’s). Kids love rough and tumble play, and it’s really good for their development and your bond. This is the ultimate long term strength training too, because over time they get bigger and heavier and if you can still throw them up in the air when they are eight years old you know you’ve got stronger. If you have grown up kids, look forward to moving on to rough and tumble play with the grandkids instead.
Run up the stairs – and be less efficient. You know how you go into another room to get something and realise you forgot the thing you needed so you have to go back again? Embrace this. Why make one trip when you can make multiple trips at double the speed?
Squat to pick things up, e.g. while hanging up washing. Don’t just bend down, squat! I did this while putting away the clean laundry last night. I squatted down to pick up every item from the basket. It was great exercise and gave my muscles a load of extra movement that they wouldn’t have got otherwise, in no more time than I would have normally spent on that chore.
Install a pull-up bar over a door frame. You have to hang for as long as you can every time you go through that door. Not many of us can actually do a pull-up, but working on your grip strength by hanging is extremely useful.
Put the things you need in more awkward places. We tend to put the things we use most in the place that’s at the easiest height. What if you put things higher up, or lower down, so you have to stretch or bend/squat to get to them? So what if no one who visits your house can find the teaspoons because you’ve put them in the very bottom drawer?
Spend ten minutes doing stretches in the evening. You can do this every day. Put on some nice relaxing music or just do it in front of the TV. When you turn on the TV, instead of sitting straight down, do some stretches in front of the programme. Maybe keep the remote away from the sofa. If you have to move to go and get it, you could do some stretches while you’re about it.
Make your own bread. Kneading bread dough for ten minutes is an excellent arm workout. The rest of the bread-making process doesn’t take much longer than this. You mix up the dough, knead it for ten minutes, leave it in a warm place for a couple of hours, or until you realise you’ve forgotten all about it. Another quick knead, stick it in a tin, forget about it again, then bake (ideally when you’ve already got the oven on for something else). You then get to eat the bread! There are other ways to incorporate movement into preparing food, such as whisking or mixing by hand. You could look back in the history of your food culture and recreate what your great-grandmother would have been making.
Sit on the floor. Instead of always heading straight for the sofa, try sitting on a cushion on the floor. You will find that you naturally move around a lot more (because it’s less comfortable!) There are many different positions you can sit or lie in. You have to use your muscles to support yourself to stay upright, and it also takes more muscles to get up and down. Can you get up from the floor without using your hands? Several movement specialists I know are so convinced of the benefits of sitting on the floor that they have removed all furniture from their houses. They sit or squat on the floor all the time, including for meals, using low coffee tables to put their food on. They also eschew comfy beds. I mean, it is how our ancestors would have lived…
Park further away from the shops. Always choose to walk whenever possible. It’s such an old chestnut, isn’t it? Take the stairs rather than the lift, park at the far end of the car park. You’ve heard it all before. It does add up though – think about the strength you’re gaining in your leg muscles from walking or running up the stairs. That’s ‘proper’ exercise that people pay for the privilege of doing at a gym. If it’s less than half an hour’s walk away, do you really need to drive or get public transport?
Make a walk with a friend one of your social activities. Honestly, you will have the best chats walking side by side with someone. You’ll walk for longer and it’ll feel much easier than going alone.
See the benefits of doing the housework. Get scrubbing! I find cleaning, especially vacuuming, is hard, physical work. I hate it. Getting it over and done with as quickly as possible gets me out of breath and in a sweat, so it definitely counts as exercise.
Fidget. People who fidget a lot can burn off an extra 300 calories a day. You can set an alert on your phone to tell you to move every hour or so if you have a tendency to sit in one place for too long.
Get a watch with a step counter. See what you do on a normal day and challenge yourself to increase it over time. Mine works out my average steps and then encourages me to try and achieve this every day. There is more on counting steps in chapter five.
If you go to the gym, make sure your gym bag is always ready by the door. That way, it’s always there if you’re in a hurry. I’ve heard of people going to sleep in their gym gear so they can get straight up and go for a run in the morning. This might be a bit extreme, but make sure any equipment or clothing you need is very easily accessible, preferably in line of sight.
When waiting for something or someone, pace about. A friend told me that when her son is at swimming lessons, instead of sitting with the other parents, she puts a podcast on her headphones and walks around. Another friend walks around the football pitch when her daughter is training.
Make your mobile immobile. When you’re at home, leave your mobile phone in one place so that you have to go to it when you want to use it.
Pay attention to how you talk to yourself: change your language to say to yourself, “How am I going to move today?” Make it non-negotiable in your head. Being disciplined is hard. If you are a person who likes lists, add it to your to-do list. Instead of “I might do some yoga later if I have time”, it needs to be, “when am I going to do my yoga?” and fit it into your plan for the day. As we’ve seen, it’s not rational to want to waste energy on exercise and I find it’s the first thing I drop if I’m pushed for time. There’s a lot more about motivation in the second half of this book.
It can be difficult to find the time to exercise, and it can also appear that by making tasks take longer, for example by walking somewhere instead of driving, that this leaves even less time in the day. But by combining daily tasks with movement you are actually getting twice as much done. The more we can add movement to the things we already do, the less additional time we have to find to do movement or exercise as a standalone activity.
Be curious and keep an open mind about new and unusual ways to move more of your body, more often.
 This does depend on the area and how accessible it is for walkers. Don’t jeopardise your personal safety for the sake of a walk.