If visions of sweaty muscle guys at the gym or hordes of fit folks running a marathon make you question if exercise is right for you, we have some good news: Any way you can increase your heart rate counts when it comes to physical activity. Here are 10 simple tips for incorporating more exercise into your day — no gym membership required!
1. Park farther away
Unless you live in a pedestrian-friendly city, you are more likely to drive instead of walk — meaning your sneakers aren’t getting much sidewalk action. So instead of circling the parking lot for that perfect space, park as far away as you can. Pounding the pavement to reach your destination can increase your heart rate — bonus points (and extra heart-pumping health benefits) if you carry shopping bags on the return trip!
2. Take the stairs
Remember step aerobics? Marching up and down steps is always a way to get exercise, even without the pulsing music. Skip the elevator and take a walk or jog up the staircase at work, the mall, or elsewhere. Over the course of the day, this extra heart-rate-boosting activity can really add up.
3. Walk after lunch
…or breakfast or dinner. Even in short spurts, walking has been shown to lower blood pressure. Ending your meal with a stroll is also a good way to signal the end of eating; that way you might be less likely to nibble past the point of feeling full. Researchers from New Zealand have found that taking a 10-minute walk after meals can even help regulate your blood sugar.
4. Drink more water
To introduce even more activity into your day (and stay hydrated), fill up your water bottle first thing in the morning. And drink it all. You know what comes next: a trip to the bathroom. Refill your water bottle after you’re done, and keep the cycle going. Aim to stand up and move around at least once an hour, even if that’s more often than you need a bathroom break.
5. Plug in mini exercise routines
Maybe you don’t have the time — or desire — to go to the gym. That’s OK. Small bursts of activity like jumping jacks, push-ups, and stretching can get your heart rate up. Experiment to find a few movements that make you feel good and insert them into your daily routine — before you get in the shower, after breakfast, or when you go get the mail.
6. Track your steps
Whether it’s with a dedicated step tracker or using your smartphone’s step counter, counting your daily steps can be a helpful motivational tool. Experts recommend aiming for 7,000-9,000 steps or more per day, but you can start by setting a steps goal that’s realistic for you.
7. Play hard
Remember getting out of breath playing tag and climbing the monkey bars? Hitting the playground can give you an excuse to be a kid again and work up a sweat without needing to go to the gym.
8. Move to communicate
Of course it makes sense to email your family across the country or your colleague in another office. But we’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of sending a quick email or text message to people who are just down the hall. Challenge yourself to have conversations in person whenever possible, and keep track of how much more you move as a result.
9. Wash the car
Save money and get your heart rate up — it’s a win-win! Instead of driving your car through the automatic car wash, do the job yourself either in front of your home or at a self-serve car wash place. Bonus: You’ll have a squeaky-clean automobile to match how good you feel.
10. Stand up for calls
Getting up from your seat every time you have a call is a simple way to sit less and move more without having to carve time out of your busy schedule. If you’re not attached to a cord, you can even stroll while you talk.
Remember, boosting your heart rate doesn’t have to be hard or take a long time. Find a few strategies that sound manageable for you, and get moving!