Make active choices for fitness

Increase your physical activity by keeping active throughout the day.

When we think of physical activity we often think of structured time that we set aside to exercise. For example, we might spend 20 minutes on a treadmill, or an hour at the gym or 30 minutes walking the dog. We see physical activity as something we schedule, like an appointment or a meeting. It’s certainly fine to do that! We should make physical activity part of our daily routine, and set time aside for it. There are other ways to be physically active, though, and they should be part of our routine too.

In order to live an active lifestyle, Michigan State University Extension and the National Diabetes Prevention Program recommend making “active choices” rather than “inactive choices” throughout the day. There are many ways to make active choices, but they may require a conscious effort, at least at first. We are so used to conveniences, such as cars, elevators and dishwashers. Do you remember what life was like before TVs came with remote controls? We had to get up off of the couch to change the channel. There was a time when fast food restaurants and banks were built without drive-through windows. We had to park our cars and walk into the building. Today we take these conveniences for granted, but we can approach common tasks in a more active way. The extra effort it may take will add physical activity to our days, and help us stay healthy.

Leading an active lifestyle can be as simple as choosing to move rather than to sit or stand. A common example is to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Challenge yourself to find the parking spot as far away from a building, instead of as close as possible. If you take the bus, consider getting off a stop early and walking the rest of the way. Who says you have to be sitting in order to read a book? Try reading while you’re on the treadmill or exercise bike.

It may not be possible to change the channels on your TV without your remote, but you can still get up and move while you’re watching TV. How about getting up during the commercials to march in place or walk around the house? You can also watch TV while on a treadmill or exercise bike. Try to get a few more steps in each day by walking to your mailbox, the corner store, or a neighbor’s house. Before getting into the car for short trips, think about whether they can be done on a bike or on foot.

It’s important to keep your safety in mind before making these lifestyle changes. If you need to use an elevator because of a physical condition, then don’t force yourself to take the stairs! If you need to stay in your car at a bank or restaurant because the location may not be safe, then by all means do so. Do try to find ways to make active choices throughout the day that work for you. You’ll feel better for it! 

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