“Your numbers are high,” I told my colleague who had stopped by the clinic to have her blood pressure checked.
“I know,” she replied. “I used to have low blood pressure, but as the years go by, it’s creeping up. It’s true that we have a history of hypertension in my family, but aren’t I too young to be dealing with high blood pressure?”
“Well, let’s see,” I answered. “Cutting back on salt will help, but are you getting regular exercise?”
That question stimulated an all-toofamiliar reply.
“I just don’t have time,” she explained.
“By the time I get the kids ready for school, eat breakfast, have worship, drive the kids to school, and take myself to work, the morning is gone. Then I work all day and sit at my desk with hardly a break. When I leave work, I pick up the kids and take them to music lessons or sports practice, run errands, go home, make dinner, help them with homework and music practice, have worship, do housework, and fall asleep late. The day is gone.”
LIFE GETS IN THE WAY
It’s not that we don’t know all the benefits of staying active. Exercise—
• Eases stress and anxiety by improving oxygenation and releasing good hormones.
• Lifts mood and works as an effective antidepressant.
• Sharpens growth of new brain cells and helps slow down age-related decline.
• Boosts energy and strengthens the heart and vascular system.
• Helps ward off health problems such as heart disease, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes.
• Helps keep our muscles, ligaments, and joints flexible and strong.
• Strengthens the immune system to help fight illnesses.
• Improves our quality of sleep.
• Helps keep body weight manageable and thus improve self-esteem. With all these good side effects, you’d think exercise would be a high priority on everyone’s daily “must-do” list. Often, as much as we want to, we simply don’t have the ability to devote an hour or two daily just to exercise.
READ ON—THERE’S GOOD NEWS!
Exercise doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” commitment. With a few clever tweaks to your daily routine, you can sneak in enough exercise to essentially accomplish many of the benefits mentioned above.
Here are some unlikely “get-fit” suggestions:
1. GOOD POSTURE. By sitting and standing straight and tall, we contract dozens of muscles from our legs up to our necks. These contractions burn calories and help keep muscles and ligaments strong.
2. TAKE THE STAIRS. Ditch the elevator and/or escalator and climb your way to more fitness. You can burn about 50 calories climbing up stairs for approximately four minutes.
3. 10-MINUTE WORKOUTS. Try a 10-minute stretching and cardio session first thing in the morning before your shower. Then take one or two 10-minute sessions during the work day to power walk—during lunch or regular work breaks. Take another 10 minutes in the evening for strength training moves while dinner is on the stove.
4. GET STRONGER AT WORK.
a. Park at the back of the lot and walk briskly to your office building or the store.
b. Get up from your desk at least once an hour. Walk down the hall—to the bathroom, to get a drink, to deliver a message to a co-worker—to get circulation flowing and stretch your muscles. Talk and walk with a co-worker while discussing a project or making plans.
c. No time to leave your office? Try a few stretches and knee-bends while standing by your office chair. Do this several times during your workday.
d. Keep a set of hand weights in your desk for some brief periods of muscle-strengthening moves.
e. Keep a jump rope in your office. Just 10 minutes of jumping can burn as many as 110 calories.
f. Does your office have an exercise room? A 10- or 15-minute workout daily will benefit you both mentally and physically.
5. WORK OUT AROUND THE HOUSE.
a. While folding clothes, ironing, or waiting for the washing machine, do several deep-knee bends and then rise up and down on your toes. Do stretches, waist exercises, or jumping jacks, or just walk in place.
b. Put energy into vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and scrubbing.
c. Do yard work and gardening for the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air.
d. Exercise while watching a nature video.
6. LET TECHNOLOGY HELP.
a. Set an alarm to remind you to periodically get up from your chair and stretch or move about for a few minutes.
b. Try using a pedometer or FitBit to make sure you’re getting enough steps during the day.
c. Download a smartphone app. Many apps offer accountability, inspiration, and methods for tracking your exercise.
7. GET THE FAMILY INVOLVED.
a. Walk the dog together as a family, or volunteer to walk a dog from a shelter.
b. Plan a family bike ride or a hike.
c. Enjoy a picnic or camping trip with family and friends on the weekend.
d. Involve the family in a brisk morning or evening walk around the neighborhood.
e. Work together on a vegetable garden project.
FROM SIMPLE CHOICES TO A FUN HABIT PATTERN
At first it will take dedicated effort and conscious choice to get more movement into your daily routine. But as you persist, and especially as you experience the benefits of exercise, these daily tweaks have a good chance of becoming a pleasant lifestyle pattern. Remember to ask God for help. Dedicate your plan to Him and then watch how He leads and blesses you with vitality and added strength along the journey (Phil. 4:13).