A Dozen Fun Physical Activity Tips for Health Month

Article By: Maria Tucker, MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES

Maria Tucker is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 20 years of experience assisting patients with diabetes, obesity, and nutrition-related conditions. Maria is also the Founder of MyBiyaya.com, a site dedicated to healthy recipes and kitchen shortcuts.

In my work as a Registered Dietitian, the subject of exercise frequently arises. I often get asked, “When is the best time to work out?” or “What is the best exercise to lose belly fat?" To these questions, I respond with corresponding questions... “When is it convenient for you to work out?” “What are you willing and able to do to lose your belly fat?” We all come up with lots of reasons why we can’t exercise — not enough time, too busy, kids have too many activities, working long hours, my (you name the body part) hurts, etc. If you think about it, everyone, even those with legitimate injuries, can find one or two ways to engage in physical activity (I don’t like calling it exercise).

The problem is that most people do not realize that what they may already be doing can count as physical activity... Simple moves can help! After all, you can reap some benefits of physical activity even if it isn’t vigorous (as in you don’t sweat like a horse or breathe like a dog that just tried to chase a car). Every bit of movement is beneficial. Learn a few moves that you can do at home, in the office, or while you are jet-setting around the country to give you more energy and keep that calorie burning fire going. After all, a body in motion tends to stay in motion, right? How can you engage in small bursts of physical activity? Here are a dozen different ways:

1) You’ve got mail! Instead of stopping your car at the mailbox before driving in, park your car in your driveway or garage. Then walk briskly up the street for 5 minutes and pick up your mail on the way back.

2) Dinner’s ready! While cooking dinner, do a modified plank. Stand at an arm’s length from your kitchen counter. Lean forward (bending at the elbows) and keep your body and back straight. Pull in your belly and tighten your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds, and then relax. Repeat at least 5 times.

3) Can you hear me now? When talking with someone on the phone, pace around the coffee table, do some lunges, or step up and down the lowest step on your stairs.

4) Must watch TV! Refrain from engaging in the hand to mouth movement with that bag of artery-clogging popcorn while watching TV. Instead, get up during commercial breaks and do a few jumping jacks, dance to the music on the commercial, or bring out the resistance band and do some bicep curls. An hour-long episode of your favorite TV show includes about 15 minutes of commercials.

5) Iron Man! While ironing clothes, wiggle your hips from side to side; do some squats as you wait for the iron to get hot.

6) But wait! If you have to wait awhile, like at a restaurant inside the mall, find out how long the wait is and walk around the mall instead of sitting by the door.

7) Give me an A, give me a B... Walk around the field at your child’s soccer game. Be an enthusiastic cheerleader and jump up and down when the team scores.

8) 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Finally! While waiting for a slow elevator, stand with your feet parallel and your knees relaxed. Tighten the muscles around your belly button, stretch your upper torso, and release. Finally, contract your buttocks for a few seconds.

9) Are we there yet? When traveling for your summer vacation, bring resistance bands to use in your hotel; watch workout videos on YouTube or use the free fitness center at the hotel.

10) Lay low, say what? When at the airport for a layover, don’t take the magic carpet ride on the moving catwalk. Walk from concourse to concourse as much as you can, and browse the many stores between terminal gates to pass the time.

11) Over the river and through the woods. If you're driving by car to the beach or mountains, stop at a safe place like a rest stop at least every hour or two to do short brisk walks and stretch. Your calves and back will thank you later!

12) Just dance! Don’t worry about who’s looking... Play that funky music and break out your dance moves — hip hop, cha cha, rumba, salsa, the Whip / Nae Nae, or the Wobble. Dance like you’re a teenager again, and before you know it, you’ll be energized, your stress level will be way down, and your voracious appetite will be zapped!

No matter which activity you choose, the important thing is that you MOVE and STAY ACTIVE. Schedule some physical activity on your calendar at least three times per week, just like your kids’ soccer game night or your weekly mani-pedi. Make it fun and change it up a bit from time to time so you don’t get bored. As William Cowper said in his poem, The Task, “Variety is the spice of life!”

Much like there is no perfect universal diet for each person, there is no single perfect workout routine. Choose physical activity that works for you, is sustainable, and that you’ll enjoy. You’ll be surprised at how even a small change in your activity level can lead to a big reward!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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