10 simple ways to up your activity

Striving to meet those fitness goals you've set yourself? Here are 10 easy ways you can increase your activity:

1. Take the stairs

Exercise can take place anywhere, anytime, even at the office. Research shows that workers who take the stairs, rather than the lift, for just 3 months display bigger improvements in waist size, weight, and blood pressure than their lift-taking counterparts. (ref 1)

2. Exercise in short bursts

Even those who are busy can up their activity by exercising in short bursts when the opportunity arises. When cooking, for example, handling two tins of baked beans is roughly equivalent to lifting at 2 kg kettlebell, which can significantly improve strength and power. (ref 2)

3. Walk the dog

Taking over dog-walking responsibilities just three times per week, or upping existing walking time to total 150 minutes per week can be an easy way to increase activity. Walking has many benefits, especially for women. They frequently show a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as a result of regular walking. (ref 3)

4. Get busy in the garden

Activities that are often undertaken in the garden, such as walking, sweeping, cutting the grass, and cleaning the windows aren't just chores - they're exercise. Research shows that people who undertake regular gardening activity have higher VO2 levels, meaning increased strength. (ref 4)

5. Use a pedometer

Pedometers act as motivators, and research suggests that desk workers who wear pedometers are more likely to stay active throughout the day. One study even found that steps increased from an average 7,029 per day to an impressive 10,480 when a pedometer was worn. (ref 5)

6. Prevent boredom

Many people are capable of upping their activity, but are deterred by the boredom and monotony of a single task. Boredom directly affects performance, so swapping regular exercise for circuit training can be a great way to work out for longer, and at a more effective rate. (ref 6)

7. Set Goals

The concept that goal setting increases motivation was a component of the Locke and Latham theory that 'task performance is regulated directly by conscious goals'. If a regular gym session is 30 minutes long, setting a goal to work out for 40 minutes can be very beneficial. (ref 7)

8. Get biking

Many people could benefit from swapping the car for the bike when it comes to running errands locally. Short cycling distances are a good way to increase activity without too much of a challenge, and can boost cardiovascular fitness and reduce risk factors for disease. (ref 8)

9. Join a fitness class

Never underestimate the power of a like-minded community. Research shows that those who enrol in a fitness class are more likely to improve their exercise behaviours than those who are exercising independently, leading to increased activity. (ref 9)

10. Stand, don't sit

Many office workers are classed as sedentary, which can reduce muscle tone and make upping activity more challenging than it should be. Sit-stand desks in the office can minimise sedentary effects, improving muscle mass and making increased activity a little easier to undertake. (ref 10)

References:

1. Philippe Meyer et al. "Stairs instead of elevators at workplace: cardioprotective effects of a pragmatic intervention". European Journal of Preventive Cardiology October 2010 vol. 17 no. 5 569-575

2 Otto, William H. III et al. "Effects of Weightlifting vs. Kettlebell Training on Vertical Jump, Strength, and Body Composition". Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:

May 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 5 - p 1199-1202

3 JoAnn E. Manson, M.D., Dr.P.H et al. "Walking Compared with Vigorous Exercise for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Women". N Engl J Med 2002; 347:716-725

4 Gunn SM et al. "Determining energy expenditure during some household and garden tasks". Exercise Physiology Laboratory, School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

5 Catherine B. Chan, Ph.D et al. "Health benefits of a pedometer-based physical activity intervention in sedentary workers". Preventive Medicine Volume 39, Issue 6, December 2004, Pages 1215-1222

6 Thackray RI. "The stress of boredom and monotony: a consideration of the evidence". Psychosom Med. 1981 Apr;43(2):165-76

7 Weinberg, Robert S. "Goal setting and performance in sport and exercise settings: A synthesis and critique". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Vol 26(4), Apr 1994, 469-477

8 P. Oja et al. "Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review". Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports Volume 21, Issue 4, pages 496-509, August 2011

9 Cardinal, B. J.; Cardinal, M. K. "Changes in exercise behavior and exercise identity associated with a 14-week aerobic exercise class". Journal of Sport Behavior 1997 Vol. 20 No. 4 pp. 377-386

10 Leon Straker et al. "Sit-stand desks in call centres: Associations of use and ergonomics awareness with sedentary behavior". Applied Ergonomics Volume 44, Issue 4, July 2013, Pages 517-522