Dr Francisco and All against sedentary life!
HOW TO INCORPORATE AEROBIC EXERCISE INTO A BUSY LIFESTYLE
The benefits of exercise are multiple. Exercise can strengthen your heart, your muscles and joints, and can help you maintaining your weight, improving your blood pressure and improving the way your body process the excess of blood sugar. Exercise also increases endorphins making you feel better about yourself and can help you reducing your stress levels. Exercise can also help you toning your body and putting you in a better shape. Experts also say that exercise has some added benefits for your brain and thinking processes.
Thus, exercise can help you to increase your quality of life, could give you some extra years of life and/or prevent you from developing certain diseases. I think these benefits should be appealing.
However, before engaging in an exercise routine for the first time, you might need to consult your doctor if you have any heart, lung or joint problem or if you suffer from any debilitating disease.
The following tips can apply to most people. The time and intensity shall depend on your possibilities.
I will not be telling you what exercise regimen or sport is suitable for you. I will be simply telling you how you could incorporate different types of aerobic exercise into busy lifestyles. Despite knowing the benefits of exercise, many of us blame our busy lifestyles as the main reason for not being able to do exercise or practice sports. It is not simple, but not impossible. You just need to realise exercise is good for you, and then try to do your best to incorporate it into your daily routine. I trust you can do it but YOU need to start the process, and then YOU need to keep it up. . Tip #1. Incorporate exercise as part of your daily routine
It is ideal that you set some time aside for exercise and incorporate it into your daily routine. Twenty to thirty minutes a day and 4-5 times a week shall suffice. You simply need to see it as it is the next step in your day’s routine after you concluded the previous activity, and that you cannot start the next activity until you complete your exercise session. For example, before having your dinner, you must hit the gym (or any type of exercise). Some people say that they arrive home feeling hungry and tired (I trust that), but then eat a healthy snack to recharge, hit the gym and then enjoy later your well-deserved dinner. If your friends invite you for a meal on Friday, you could tell your friends “I see you guys a little bit later as I need to go for my run first”. Thus, in the same way you cannot go to sleep without dinner, you can set your mind and tell yourself that you cannot dine without doing your exercise or you can go out only after doing your exercise (but if this is still not possible, see tip #2). Then, you can think of many possibilities and permutations applying to your specific lifestyle.
Tip #2. Wake up earlier to do exercise
If you can hit the gym (or do any type of exercise) by waking up early, that will be the best way of avoiding exercise coming in between your daily activities and you saying you do not have time, but you might need to sacrifice a little bit of your sleep, and setting your mind that exercise comes before a well-deserved breakfast. You can go early to bed to compensate. But if you are not willing to do it daily, you could do it for those days that you have a commitment in the evening (meeting or dinner with friends), so you have the whole afternoon free, being happy knowing that you already ticked the exercise for the day.
Since you are busy with tasks or taking care of kids, to apply these 2 tips, you would need to get support from your spouse. Kindly ask your spouse to encourage you and wait for you for dinner until you have completed your exercise session, or to kindly take care of the kid(s) while you complete your session, but later you would need to pay back in the same way, hoping your spouse also see the beauties of doing exercise, or simply make it up to your spouse in other ways; for example taking care of the kids while she goes to the beauty saloon.. But of course, if you two share the same exercise and sports interests and/or someone can help out taking care of your kids, you two could go together to do exercise, which can be more fun and encouraging.
Tip #3. Consider practicing a sport or doing exercise together with friends or relatives
As alluded before, practicing a sport or doing exercise together with your spouse, friends or relatives can add fun to your exercise session and become a positive reinforcement, so you will be more likely to keep the behavior and receive its benefits.
Tip #4. Practice a sport on top of running (or any other type of aerobic exercise)
It can be more fun to play football over running because you are socializing more actively and adding competition to the task, which is itself a motivation to many of us. But then some people will find fun only in playing football and not in just running, and will only play football on weekends without doing exercise the rest of the days, not getting their required weekly dose of exercise. Despite running might not be as fun as football (at least for footballers), by running the rest of the days, you get the benefits aforementioned plus you will be fitter and run more during your weekend football session and be able to do your tricks.
Tip #5. Spice up and vary your exercise routine
Another excuse heard is that running (or any repetitive aerobic exercise) is boring or dull. If you think that, then run one day, swim another, go to the gym another, brisk-walk another day, cycle another day, practice any sport one day, etc. Or run on a treadmill one day and run on the street another day, or use the cross-trainer another day, etc.
Some people like to add ‘fake competition’ to a perceived dull-routine to make it more fun. For example, try to get into that bus stop in certain time or before the cars in the traffic, try to overtake as many other runners or walkers on the street pretending you are on a race, or cheer yourself in your mind like if you were running a race and you had the leading position. Be a little kid for a while; it is fun.
Tip #6. Use your feet instead of motorised vehicles as means of transport
Try to be as mobile as possible on your feet. Avoid e-scooters and e-bikes, just pedal a scooter or cycle a bike. Similarly, over pedalling a scooter (too much road-gliding), choose brisk-walking, running or cycling. If you can cycle to the supermarket to do small shopping, cycle with a backpack instead of driving.
So, choose Nike or Adidas as your preferred way of transport over a Honda or a Ferrari.
Walk, run or cycle to work or school if within a reasonable distance, where reasonable means 3-5 km for most people. But be careful crossing traffic lights, and careful with traffic if you cycle; and if you cycle, wear a helmet. Some workplaces and schools have changing rooms and showers and offer lockers, which makes things simpler, so you can shower and change into your work or school outfit after commuting to work by running or cycling. If you don’t have those facilities at work or school or simply would not like to do it or will be cumbersome or you are too shy, then go to work or school in your usual way, but pack some exercise gear and run or cycle back home with your basic items in a small backpack. If your workplace or school is far, then you can get off few bus or metro stops before your final destination and then walk, run or cycle from there. If your place is too near, take a longer route.
Walk, run or cycle to the local supermarket, shopping centre, bank, post office, cinema or any entertainment place or for any informal social encounter. Run to the gym, instead of commuting to the gym and use the treadmill there. If you want to go out for your burger because you simply love your burgers (or any equivalent unhealthy food or even healthy food), then walk, run, cycle to it. People say what is the point of doing exercise if you eat burgers and that contradicts itself…I say: imagine eating burgers without doing exercise…but indeed, try to have a balanced diet and minimize your burgers.
In such ways, you are commuting and getting your aerobic exercise session done at the same time, so you are saving time (30 min to get home and do exercise at the same time: it seems a good deal), improving your health and saving money: You can take the bus or taxi to work but you can run back.
Setting eg running in your mindset as it is the way you commute helps you ingraining it in you and your routine.
Tip #7. Simply add locomotion to every single activity of your daily life
If you live, work or study in a tall building, take the stairs to your floor instead of using the lift. If too many floors, take the lift, then get off before your floor and take the stairs to your floor, and gradually increase the number of floors you climb up. If your work on the second floor in a 30-floor building, why don’t you try to climb to the 30th floor and then take the lift down to the second floor? Imagine if you do that when you arrive at work, when you go for lunch and when your colleagues call you for tea time in the ground floor coffee shop? That adds to 90 floors, as good as a 3-5 km run. Also, you do not need those 90 floors, even 30 are good enough.
In the metro stations and in the shopping centres, take the stairs instead of the escalators. Leave the lifts for the elderly, pregnant women, people less able, people with children or people carrying lots of shopping.
Tip #8. Do your exercise at lunchtime
If you have the luxury to have sufficient time and a pro-exercise comprehensive boss, you can get your exercise done at you lunch break (or at least some days). If you cannot or would not like to run, brisk-walking will still give you benefits and you will sweat less.
Tip #9. Use every single excuse to jump into exercise mode
If you are not free because you need to take your kid to the kid's pool party. Rather than waiting 1 hour motionless, take your swimming suit and jump in an do some laps while keeping an eye on your kid playing with the rest. If you take your kid to the indoor playground, follow him/her and you will realise you will get a good sweat and heart raise for that hour. If your kid wanna go cycling, go with him; and if his pace is too slow for your cycling pace, then allow him to cycle and you run next to him.
Tip #10. Adapt to the situation and your capabilities
If you are getting older or develop injuries or any physical inability, you might not be able to perform or continue your usual type of aerobic exercise, but there will be always something else you can do. If you cannot play football anymore, perhaps you can still run. If you cannot run, perhaps you can swim or play squash, and so on.
If you love exercise and sports everything will be simpler. If not, perhaps you can grow the love, and if still not, you really do not need to love it, you simply need to realise and accept all the benefits you will be receiving if doing exercise and you will be missing if remaining highly sedentary, so whatever effort you put is worthy. Exercise is simply good for you, so you can take that also as a medical advice, which standing alone is good for you, but imagine if added to a healthy and balanced diet and modification of some not-so-good habits.
Also, if you realise, you do not need to pay an expensive gym membership or have a pool to get a good aerobic exercise session. I put many examples of costless situations in which you can get your aerobic exercise routine done, you just need a little bit of imagination and improvisation.
If you would like more specific advice, Dr Francisco will be happy to advise you.
Wishing you the best possible health,
Dr Francisco Salcido-Ochoa Nephrologist and Transplant Immunologist. + Expert in incorporating exercise routines in his busy lifestyle
Active promoter of healthy living and a provider of approachable, flexible and empathic care in Singapore for Singaporeans, Expats and International patients.