As a working mom and a physician, I know it can be hard to find the time to exercise. The good news is that the medical literature tells us you can add up 10 minute bursts of exercise throughout the day to hit your goal of 150 minutes (two and a half hours) per week of moderate intensity exercise. What is meant by moderate intensity? Activities like brisk walking fit the bill. If you can take it up a notch and do more vigorous activity, such as jogging or running, you can reduce the amount of time you need to exercise each week to an hour and 15 minutes. As long as you move at least 10 minutes at a pop, your exercise can be broken down into many small portions to hit the total time you need for the week. This makes a big difference for those who have busy schedules. The important thing is to always keep moving, getting out of your chair periodically throughout the day, even if you can’t find time for a brisk walk. If you can exceed the goals mentioned here, by all means, go for it!
Did you know that thin people move more throughout their day than those who are obese or overweight? Although one can’t say for certain which came first, being thin or moving more, we know that increased movement throughout the day can help those trying to lose weight. Because I’ve educated my family about this, I am the person that people call on when they want a beer from the fridge, the newspaper from the front step, a letter trotted down the street to the mailbox. My brother-in-law is a big fan of joking, “Lisa, can I improve your health by having you to fetch me a beer?” Its my personal philosophy never to say no to an opportunity to move. “Mom, can you help me find my blue shirt?” results in me bounding up the stairs to talk directly to my daughter, rather than yelling from downstairs, “check the laundry basket.” “Lisa, do you know where I put my wallet?” has me ping ponging all over the house to help find the missing loot. Whether I run around helping others for my own health (usually) or out of altruism (sometimes), its a win-win situation when I take advantage of these daily opportunities to move more.
Think about other ways you can sneak in a little exercise as you go about your daily routine. For example, it takes me about the same 15 minutes to bike to the train as it does to drive, find parking, pay the meter and walk from my parking spot to the station. I bike year round, unless there is water or ice on the road. You can do it too! I admire those who bike all the way to their jobs and hope you’ll consider it, if you have the time and a safe path to get there.
At work, I walk the stairs before I eat lunch or in the mid afternoon. If you have stairs at work, give it a try. That mid afternoon walk, even if its only 10 minutes long, wakes up my brain and makes me more focused and productive when I return to my desk. I try to squeeze in 10 minutes on the stairs during work, and another 10 minutes at the end of my day before heading home. Stair walking definitely counts as vigorous! Of course, I always take the stairs up when I arrive at the office and back down when I leave for the day, so there’s another round trip up and back. When I’m out, I have a rule that I’ll always take the stairs if its less than five flights up, and down if its less than ten. Often I’ll modify that to ten flights up and twenty down, but it depends on my shoes, the temperature and the person walking with me. I encourage you to set a personal rule around stairs vs. elevator so you don’t have to debate whether or not you’re in the mood for some exercise when you come upon that choice during your day.
My kids are five and seven years old, so exercising with them requires creativity. I’ll take them to the park and take turns chasing them, swinging them around in my arms and climbing all over the playground equipment with them. They’ve even convinced me to do the monkey bars. It’s not pretty, but it’s a work out. If I stay engaged with the kids, I can accomplish 30 minutes of solid exercise before I slow it down and we play “tea party” or dig in the sand. I’ve also found that playing “soccer” with my kids gives me an opportunity to run, since they aren’t that coordinated and the ball rarely goes in the direction it was intended. I volunteer for the job of the ball chaser. My kids get age appropriate exercise and I get my work out too.
I’ve taken to hopping like a kangaroo, having dance parties, chasing squirrels and carrying abandoned scooters back home as alternative ways to move more while engaged with my kids. If you’re a working parent trying to squeeze in exercise, don’t get discouraged. This is something you can do. The older your kids get, the easier it is and the more interested they become in joining in some calisthenics or yoga. Keep in mind the option to squeeze in little bits of movement and exercise throughout your day. Most important, remember that each day is a new opportunity to take charge of your health by moving more on your own or with your family.
Thanks for listening and I wish you the best of health!
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