Even though it comes with such coveted benefits as better sleep, sharper minds and stronger bodies, convincing people to move has been the bane of public health workers for decades. Things like desk jobs, drive-throughs, long commutes and remote-controlled everything sabotage their efforts, as Americans continue to fall short of exercise guidelines.
According to an analysis of 2020 National Health Interview Survey data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 28% of Americans are meeting combined guidelines of 150 minutes of aerobic activity and two days of muscle strengthening exercises per week.
To encourage more movement in 2024, we asked staff with the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) to offer simple tips on how to overcome the sedentary pull of the modern lifestyle. Here’s some of what they had to say.
Make new habits
- On a phone call? Get up and pace.
- Don’t fight for the closest parking spot. Choose the farthest.
- Skip the bank and restaurant drive-through windows. Get out and walk in.
- Make a monthly lunch with a friend a regular walk instead.
“I often tell people that 10 minutes of pacing adds another 1,000 steps,” said Aimee Herbert, FNP, instructor in the division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes at the CU School of Medicine. “Making daily habits helps to make things doable.”
Did you know? Intermittent standing and, even more significantly, bouts of walking can lower blood sugar levels.
Meet new people
- Enlist friends as exercise partners, whether it’s brisk walking or going to the gym.
- Try sports, like pickup basketball games, tennis or – have you heard of pickleball?
- At the gym, try new classes (take advantage of the “first-class-is-free” opportunities).
“Social support is critical to maintaining your healthy habits,” said Trevor Cassidy, group exercise manager, adding that he “loves” the pickleball craze.
“The chokehold pickleball has on our community is impressive,” Cassidy said of the game (a cross between tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong) that has taken the country by storm. “It's a fun way for people of all ages to get moving, and research shows participation in organized sports is a fantastic promoter of physical activity.”
Did you know? Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States for the third year in a row and was invented in 1965 by two fathers looking to entertain their kids.
Lean on technology
- Wear a smart watch with hourly reminders to get up and move throughout the day.
- Monitor success with the way you look and feel, not with a number on a bathroom scale.
- Use body composition scans, often available at fitness centers today, for smarter success monitoring.
- Move your exercise equipment from the dark basement to where you’ll use it (even if it’s in front of the TV).
Did you know? Composition body scans can tell you much more than weight-loss, including: total skeletal muscle mass, body fat percentage, total body water, lean mass, muscle mass, fat mass and basal metabolic rate. The AHWC offers InBody scans ($29 each or $69 for three).
Move at work
- Need to meet with co-workers? Make it a walking meeting.
- Use a standing desk and alternate between standing and sitting.
- Have a bathroom right next to your office? Use one on a different floor or farther away.
Did you know? Studies have clearly linked sedentary lifestyles with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and mortality.
Any movement counts
- Watching a favorite TV show? Jump rope or march in place.
- Housework counts, especially if you do it at a quick pace.
- Mow the lawn; (riding mowers excluded).
Many daily activities can double as moving for health. “I had a client who said they chopped wood to add movement to the day,” said Danielle Ostendorf, PhD, MS, assistant professor in the division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes at the CU School of Medicine.
Also remember that workouts don’t have to be an hour long, said Shelby Panter, MS, ACSM EP-C, senior clinical sciences research professional. “If you only have 20 minutes, do something for 20 minutes,” Panter said. “Remember that any movement is better than nothing.”
Did you know? Mowing with a push-mower can burn about 175 to 200 calories in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person.
Set goals; be kind
- Set small goals throughout the year and celebrate them. (Examples: Try a new form of exercise; add a fruit or vegetable to a meal or snack.)
“These smaller ‘wins’ can have a big impact on mental as well as physical well-being,” said Courtney Kiang, RD, a dietitian with the AHWC Community Nutrition Programs.
- Never use food as reward or exercise as punishment.
“Food is not something to earn through exercise. Exercise is never punishment for eating,” Kiang said. “When people feel this way, it can create an unhealthy cycle and mindset around food and exercise.”
- Be kind to yourself.
“Positive self-talk can change the narrative and mindset that boost confidence when making lifestyle changes,” Kiang said.