The ancestral health way of approaching physical activity is to consider a day in the life of our hunter-gather ancestors….they would have likely walked long distances on a daily basis. Some say from 5 to 20 miles on average. They would occasionally run or sprint (to catch prey or avoid harm) and carry or lift heavy things (to build shelter, carry food).
In light of this it would be wise to add as much movement to our day as possible. This includes the standard sage advice to “take the stairs” and “park in the farthest parking spot from the store”. These activities do add up. Wearing a pedometer, Fit Bit, or smart phone that counts your steps is a modern way to track your movement. I do believe if you wear one and give it attention you will naturally increase your daily activity. Then add some weight resistance activities to your day.
Here are some summary points:
- Wear a pedometer and do everything you can each day to get your steps over 10,000 (or some personal goal). Or wear a fitbit or a pedometer enabled smart phone.
- Find excuses to move or walk more.
- Go up and down the stairs an extra time.
- Do 3 squats every time you stand up.
- Do 5 push ups every time you walk into your bedroom.
- Use TV commercials as a reminder to stand and walk for 2 minutes
- Walks and sunlight are good things.
- Work standing up.
- Stand on one leg or stand on a small 2×4 to improve balance.
- Keep some dumbbells or exercise bands by the computer, phone, remote control…
- Use a hand exerciser in the car at red lights.
- Be creative…it doesn’t have to be “exercise”…consider dancing, sports, play, interactive video games, yoga, Tai Chi, dog walking, gardening, etc.
- As mentioned, add large muscle group activities throughout your day (push ups, pull ups, planks, squats, lunges, jumps, step ups).
- Find a motivated friend to meet up with regularly for exercise.
- Add “interval” or high intensity/short rest exercises to your work out plan (20 to 60 seconds of maxiumum effort followed by 2 minute rest). These are typically sprinting, swimming, or cycling but could involve brisk walking followed by recovery. In other words, don’t just walk along at the same pace, mix it up! Read more here: Sprint Interval Training
- By the way, don’t be turned off by the word “sprinting” if you don’t think you can…Mark Sisson defines sprinting for our purposes as “intense movement at the highest speed you can safely muster…” See the videos below for examples that don’t involve running.
- There are literally thousands of videos on YouTube that you can use (search: interval workout, interval training workout, surge training, HIIT, etc.). Search for “beginner interval workouts” if this is new to you. There are even chair routines you can do sitting down. P90X or other similar workout videos may be a decent option for home use.
- Consider setting up a “functional playground” in your backyard. This could include stacking bricks, chopping wood, sledge hammer workouts, carrying rocks or sandbags, medicine balls, monkey bars, balance beam, etc.
- Smash or Slam Balls are great for functional exercises and fun too. These are non-bouncing weighted medicine balls and useful for full body strength and cardio workouts.
- Check out suspension trainers like TRX or the much cheaper WOSS 3000. There are endless videos on YouTube showing how versatile and effective these simple straps can be. They simply hang over a door inside your home.
One a side note, studies show higher leg strength in older adults is a significant predictor of balance, quality of life, and lower all-cause mortality. A worthwhile reason to stay active.
image from marksdailyapple.com
Here’s a quick example so you can get an idea of an interval exercises. Search YouTube for many more examples:
Here’s a short “lecture” on interval and resistance training. Worth a look if you’re not sure where to start. (When you squat, keep your knees over the balls of your feet. Use cans or water bottles if you don’t have dumbbells.)
Here’s a simple method to teach an exercise routine to very sedentary patients. These can be done seated in a chair if necessary:
The Fantastic Five: cycle through the following five exercises over and over until you feel tired out (if you’re in better shape you can push yourself harder as long as your health care provider agrees) and then rest. Once you’re well rested repeat the cycle. Again, don’t just do the five exercises and stop, when you finish #5 go back to #1 and keep going until you’re tired out. “GO until you CAN’T, REST until you CAN.” No need to count reps, just do each exercise for about 15-30 seconds and immediately move to the next.
#1 Bird Arms: flap your arms like a bird, the faster the betters. To increase the difficulty, do Jumping Jacks.
#2 Bicep Curls: with elbows at your sides, hold light weights and curl arm up. To increase the difficulty, add more weight.
#3 Stand Up-Sit Downs: simply stand up from your chair and sit back down over and over. If this is too difficult do Seated Marching: sitting in a chair, lift your feet off the ground like you were walking. You can push down on your thighs to add resistance.
#4 Raise the Roof/Over Head Press: hold light weights and press your hands straight over your head. To increase the difficulty, add more weight.
#5 Tree Huggers: extend arms straight out in front, elbows bent as if hugging tree. Press palms together to activate chest muscles for a second. Fan arms wide apart and then repeat the “hug”. A more difficult alternative is Push Ups or Wall Push Ups.
Repeat all, over and over, until you need to rest. After you’re rested, repeat. Set a goal to do this for 20 minutes, three times per week. Maybe while you watch the evening news.
(Other alternative exercises: seated marching, seated front kicks, shadow boxing, dips, lunges, crunches, squat jumps, jump rope, etc.)
Study: Alternate 30 minute bouts of standing reduced glucose from 129 to 114 (-15) in 23 office workers after lunch. Two sets of non-diabetic office workers were given the same standard lunch, one group was told to sit and work and one group told to stand and work (30 minutes at a time). The standing groups blood sugar was 15 points lower.
Study: Sedentary time and cardiometabolic biomarkers. Total sedentary time was consistently shown to be associated with poorer insulin sensitivity, this finding supports the association between sitting time and the development of type 2 diabetes.
Study: Effect of exercise on metabolic syndrome parameters in menopause women: a meta-analysis. A large study review that shows exercise reducing fasting glucose, but not much else.