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Why You Don’t Need a Formal Exercise Routine to Be Healthy

Some of the healthiest people in the world never go to the gym. Healthy aging doesn't require a formal exercise program. Live a movement-based lifestyle instead.

Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

We’ve all heard the benefits of physical activity and exercise. Studies find that it increases lifespan, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and brings about a higher quality of life in our later years.

And yet, having an understanding of the power that exercise has is not always enough to motivate us to get moving.

That’s because we are approaching fitness and health all wrong. When we hear the terms “exercise” or “physical activity”, we tend to immediately think of a dedicated exercise program like running, yoga, or lifting. All of which can sound intimidating to a lifelong non-exerciser.

The book Spring Chicken: Stay Young Forever by Bill Gifford gives an excellent overview of all the health benefits that exercise brings as we age. But as the author of the book points out, researchers have also realized you don’t have to have a formal exercise routine to reap the benefits. You simply need to get up and move more often.

The answer, then, is to focus your time and attention on adopting a movement-based lifestyle. If you have a regular exercise practice that you enjoy and that motivates you then kudos. But it doesn’t help to exercise for 30 minutes to an hour per day only to be sedentary for the rest of the day.

To adopt a movement-based lifestyle means to fit more movement into your day as it is. No massive lifestyle overhaul required. As the researchers say, just focus on moving more often.

There are an infinite number of ways you can build more movement into your day. And that can come from a combination of changing your movement patterns along with changing your environment to encourage natural movement.

That being said, here are 4 simple ways to incorporate more movement into your day.

1. Walk Instead of Driving

Have some errands you need to run that are within a few miles of your home?

Make an effort to get more creative with your commuting and consider walking instead of driving. You still get the errands done, and get a lot of movement in along the way.

Perhaps you decide to walk to the grocery store if you are only picking up a few items (and bonus points for loaded carrying on the way home), to the library or post office, or even walk to the end of your driveway to get the mail rather than picking it up from your car.

Each and every step you take counts, so build more walking into your day by swapping driving for walking at every opportunity you have.

2. Make Your Chores More Active

Walking instead of driving is one example of making chores more active. But there are a lot of opportunities within your home to make your chores more active. Again, the chores have to get done so use them as an opportunity for movement.

Try squatting to unload your dishwasher instead of bending. Put your laundry basket on the floor to encourage more squatting as you fold. Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how much of the clutter you can pick up around your house during that time.

Making chores more active can and should be fun. Get others involved to keep the momentum going.

3. Ditch Your Furniture

This is an unconventional suggestion, but hear me out. Most of our furniture isn’t necessary and causes us to move less. I mentioned above that we can also encourage more natural movement by changing our environment, and this is the ultimate way to do it.

For example, getting on and off the floor frequently is one of the best exercises we aren’t doing enough of. And because we have chairs and couches in our home we are making convenience the easier choice. Swap out some of this furniture for floor cushions instead.

Not only will your body thank you, but this is also a budget-friendly approach. You no longer have to worry about the expense of buying or maintaining new furniture.

4. Set up movement-friendly areas in your home and workspace

A surprising benefit of ditching most of your furniture is you now have more open space in your house to move! Set up movement-friendly areas to encourage yourself to move more.

Keep some open floor space with some simple movement tools in it as a reminder to use them. For example, keep half foam rolls in your movement-friendly spaces to give yourself an opportunity to stretch your calves more often. Find yourself some tennis balls to roll out your feet and other muscles. And even simple yoga blocks can be very versatile for a variety of restorative exercises.

On a similar note, consider making your workspaces more dynamic. We continue to hear about the hidden dangers of desk jobs and sitting. But it’s not so much the sitting that’s an issue as much as being in one stationary position for any length of time. Make yourself a dynamic workspace with a set up that would allow you to alternate between sitting and standing.

Reaping the immense health benefits of exercise doesn’t require a formal exercise routine that’s difficult to maintain. Instead, focus on building more movement into your current lifestyle. Challenge yourself to find variety in your usual movement patterns and change your environment to get yourself moving more. It won’t take long before you realize that exploring movement is freeing and fun.

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