We’re overwhelmed with stimuli, most families require both parents to have full time jobs, kids play sports, kids play more sports, kids have school activities, kids have artistic activities, then kids have some more activities.
Then, tack on parenting, meetings, extra random events #1, #2, and #3, and it feels like we don’t have time for anything.
Then, someone tells us that the recommended amount of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes per week (of moderate intensity activity; 75 minutes if the intensity is vigorous), and we chuckle because “ain’t nobody got time for that”.
This post is designed to offer a few suggestions on how to creep closer to that 150 minute mark, or how to build a little extra muscle, despite restrictions on our time.
Some strategies I’ve used with clients, some I’ve used myself.
In fact, I used these to jump start my own activity… then I started feeling better… then people commented that I was looking better… then I easily transitioned to finding the time for more consistent exercise. I now prioritize it, and I think starting small helped me a lot.
I was going to call this blog post: “Make your life a little bit harder”, but then I thought none of you would read it!
That being said, that title would still work, but, hang in there, and hear me out. You’ve already read this far, so why not continue. You may learn a useful trick (or 8!).
1. Every time you get out of a chair, do it twice (or thrice!)
This one is reasonably straightforward, and is exactly how it sounds. Getting on and off of chairs (or toilets!) is something we already do many times per day. Getting in and out of a chair is essentially the same pattern as a squat. This leads to my first point. Treat each time you get out of a chair as a real squat. Feet just wider than shoulder width, back straight, push through your heels, and use your legs/bum muscles to stand. If you think you need some pointers on squatting, we wrote a blog post about that too! Check it out here. HYPERLINK
As soon as you get up, sit back down and do it again. Maybe do it 2 more times. If you got out of a chair 10 times a day on a normal day, now you’ve increased your daily squat count to 20-30 repetitions! It may not seem like a lot, but do this for months and you may be surprised with the results.
2. Take the stairs
Yea, this one has been around forever, but that’s because it works! Try skipping the elevator. Even if you’re in a hurry. It probably doesn’t add that much time (it might even be faster!).
You can also increase the muscular demand by doing 2 or 3 stairs at a time (if you can do it safely).
If you’re feeling extra energetic, use the “do it twice” method on single flights of stairs!
3. Park at the back of the parking lot
This is a pretty easy way to add a few hundred steps on your Fitbit. Malls, grocery stores, and shopping centres often have massive parking lots. Park at the back and have a nice walk in (and also a nice walk back to your car when done shopping!)
If the people with you give you a hard time about it, use the words of the wise Tyler Allen (Physiotherapist): “you got two feet and a heartbeat”. (Ask my wife how many times she’s heard that!)
BONUS: you will get less dings on your car doors!
BONUS #2: you will probably be able to easily see and find your car from afar, because everyone else was being lazy.
EASY CHEAT: Just go to Costco. There’s a zero percent chance you’ll even have the opportunity to park close.
4. Try keeping up with a toddler
My personal favourite. If you don’t have a toddler, ask your friend with a toddler to borrow them. They’ll gladly say yes.
A simple idea again. Do what a toddler does, at a similar speed. Put them in a room full of cool looking, shiny, noisey stuff, and try to keep up. Go to a park, and set them free. But do things with the same vigor as them! If they’re running, you run. If they’re spinning in circles, spin in circles. If they sit still… haha… that was a joke. They don’t sit still.
5. Use your lunch break to go for a walk
Most people get a lunch break, but far too many people either work through it, or sit aimlessly on Facebook.
First of all, stop working through it. You’ll be more productive afterwards if you actually take a break. Secondly, Facebook has nothing new since you looked 15 minutes ago.
Use your lunch break to your advantage. Go for a walk. Go with a coworker. It doesn’t even have to be outside if it’s cold. Just walk up and down the hallways/stairwells or something. I can almost guarantee there’s somewhere you could walk at all workplaces, you just haven’t looked hard enough yet.
6. Find an exercise buddy
Find someone to keep you accountable. Have them ask you what active things you’ve done today. We are hardwired to dislike disappointing people. Having someone to be active with can be a huge help!
Spouse, kids, dog, coworker – all great examples of someone you can be active with.
7. Use technology to your advantage
If you can afford it, try some wearable technology (i.e. a FitBit or an Apple Watch, and yes, we wrote a blog about them too!)
Many of these activity trackers allow you to set up reminders about activity (i.e. they’ll vibrate and tell you to stand up and move), they show you weekly summaries of your activity, and you can set goals within them.
Further (and tying to my last point), they allow you to have healthy competitions with other people who also have the technology.
If you have a Fitbit, you can make a group with other people who have Fitbits and have a competition to see who can get the most steps!
My buddy, Zach, also has an Apple Watch, so we can compare our daily activity, and set up weekly challenges with one another. I even get a notification if Zach completes a workout. When this happens, my competitive nature makes me want to get in a workout, just so he doesn’t get too far ahead on the “Calories Burned” count.
There are also FREE phone apps that reward you for being active. One is called ‘Carrot’, another is ‘Run4Stuff’. (I have personally got multiple free movies as well as a $50 amazon.ca gift card with these apps!). I’m sure there’s more!
8. Don’t use technology to your advantage
Technology can help us get active, especially when it’s encouraging us to stand up, walk more, and increase our heart rate.
That being said, there are times where it could be counterproductive to the whole point I am trying to make. Sometimes, ignore the technological advancements we have taken and go old school.
Use a shovel, not a snowblower.
Use a push lawnmower, not a riding one.
Use a vacuum you need to push, not an automatic robot one.
This blog post was inspired by a YouTube video from Dr. Mike Evans, a video where he seemed to get in my head and articulately say what I was thinking.
The video is entitled “Let’s Make Our Day Harder”, and you can see it here:
In the video, he offers up a few other examples to “tweak your week” (i.e.
where you can make your day harder), including: walking/biking instead of driving, getting off the bus stop 1-2 stops earlier, or having a “walking meeting” at work.
As with many things in life, something is usually better than nothing. Some people “don’t have time” to do 30 minutes of exercise.
Then do 20 minutes. Or 10 minutes. Or… just “make life a little bit harder” multiple times a day (park at the back of the parking lot, then take the stairs).
BSc Kinesiology, University of Waterloo MSc PT, McMaster University
Born in Lahr, Germany
Mike treats people of all activity levels and ages from weekend warriors to elite athletes. He has mentored physiotherapists across Ontario as well as worked on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association. Recently, Mike represented physiotherapists within the Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games Medical Services Expert Provider Group. Mike has also had the opportunity to work side by side with orthopaedic surgeons, allowing him to work with many people following complex and traumatic injuries. Mike also consults over 1,000 physiotherapy cases nationally. This has given him a lot of insight into what Physiotherapy looks like across Canada.
Prior to becoming a physiotherapist, Mike served in the reserves for 9 years as a member of the Artillery in the Canadian Armed Forces. He also enjoys coaching local athletes to help improve their performance through MeFit, a local not-for-profit organization.
What Really Matters...
Cats or dogs?
Worst idea you've ever had?
Skiing behind a car.
Worst fad you've ever participated in?
Do you have any kids?
A baby named Maverick.
Last book you read?
Together is Better: A little Book of Inspiration
Most useless talent you have?
What 3 things are you bringing with you, stranded on a desert island?
A multitool, My Wife, and our baby
Biggest Pet Peeve?
A multitool, My Wife, and our baby
In your high school yearbook, you won/would have won...?
Most likely to get stuff done
What song would play every time you enter a room?
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
“It’s not the size of dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”