Want to See Big Change? Start with Small Steps
May. 11 2021
Many of us find it difficult to commit to a full exercise routine and regular workout plan and find it frustrating to be told to “get your daily exercise.” You might not even know where to start. You might be afraid to fail.
Take heart, though. You can take small steps (literally) and develop a health exercise habit. Adding one simple movement or activity to your daily routine, even in brief bouts throughout the day, can provide phenomenal benefits and set you on the path to a healthier life.
Just remember, movement is key.
Physical activity is important to stay healthy and helps to burn off remaining sugar, dropping insulin levels and therefore preventing insulin resistance. After meals, movement helps to control glucose spikes. Activity can also boost your mood, sharpen your focus, reduce your stress and improve your sleep.
Over time, physical activity has phenomenal benefits. Exercise in the longterm can lower your risk of cancer, support your immune system, control blood pressure, control glucose levels, help you lose weight and ultimately maintain a healthy weight.
No Bootcamp Required: Just Move
Often we think that the only way to burn calories is through scheduled exercise sessions. Movement does not need to be about high-impact, sweat-inducing exercise, it can include simple movements that you add to your daily routine. Although exercise is the most ideal way to expend a lot of calories, there are additional ways to burn them throughout the day that are not programmed sessions. Both weight loss and weight maintenance can be made easier with a clear understanding of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or N.E.A.T.
What is N.E.A.T.?
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, cleaning the house and doing recreational activities.
N.E.A.T includes the calories expended outside of exercise, eating and sleeping. There are many N.E.A.T. activities that we already do, but may not realize its caloric output effect. Simple tasks such as raking leaves, physical labor, climbing stairs and even fidgeting help us expend additional calories. In essence, N.E.A.T. increases metabolic rate and results in a substantial energy cost overtime.
How to Increase N.E.A.T. While You Work
Currently many of us spend majority of our day at work and it can be hard to find ways to incorporate more exercise into those days. One of the ways to increase caloric burn is to implement non-exercise movement throughout the workday.
Try incorporating more activity into your daily routine this week. Pick a N.E.A.T. activity that you enjoy and start small. Walking, especially after meals and during quick breaks, is a great way to get your body moving, improve glucose levels and keep your time in range (TIR) in check. Remember, some activity is better that none, and physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Walk to the drinking fountain to fill your water bottle. Take the long way to your boss’ desk. Here are some other great ways to increase movement while you work:
- Implement walking meetings. Take a walk around the office building or home office or head outdoors and boost you and your team’s creativity and movement with a walking meeting. Walking is an effective way to burn calories, stimulate the brain and bond the team. Even if working from home, take that call on the go! Creating this habit will make sure you are constantly moving throughout the day and on your feet.
- Set a reminder on your Fitbit to stand and move at least once per hour. If you’re working in an office, it provides an opportunity to give your eyes and body a break from the computer screen by removing garbage from under your desk, cleaning papers or other tasks to get you up and moving around.
- Stand instead of sit. Adjustable desks and treadmill desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. However, if these desks are not available, raise your work to a podium or counter so you can stand throughout the day. This is advantageous for those who need to read or work from a laptop or mobile device. Resting heart rate is higher while standing than sitting, thus increasing caloric output.
Creative Ways to Add Movement
Here are some creative ideas to integrate movement into your life:
- It may be easy to sit on your couch while watching TV but why not kill two birds with one stone? If you have a treadmill, stationary bike or any type of workout equipment at home, try using it while watching TV. You could even get up and do a quick chore during commercial breaks. That way you are checking of items on your to-do list while keeping your body moving.
- Change the mode of transportation where possible. Walk, bike or bus to work instead of driving. This starts and ends the day on a good note, along with a breath of fresh air.
- Take the stairs. It is a simple but great option. Walk the stairs to keep the body moving throughout the day.
- Park far from store entrances, and enjoy your walk to and from your car. Take a moment to enjoy this activity and do not make it a chore. Hopefully you will find that walking that extra distance has made you motivated to take on the next challenge.
- Do yardwork or home DIY projects, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves or reupholstering a chair! Yardwork and DIY projects allow you to improve your home while also getting your heart-rate up. You will feel accomplished that you were active and you will be rewarded by a great looking yard!
- Do some housework — checking off home projects on your list is a great way to stay active! Similar to yardwork, completing housework will get you moving and allow you to check-off items on your to-do list. You will feel great that you got up and moving and you will feel even more comfortable in your home.
- Play with your kids and get the whole family moving! Pick a fun activity that gets your heart rate up while also spending quality time with your loved ones.
If your day lacks N.E.A.T., think of one or two ideas that you can start with to integrate movement into your day or week. Find small ways to move. It may not burn as many calories as going for a jog or doing an exercise class but even small body movements help our body take advantage of N.E.A.T. Making conscious decisions to move and use our body more is the first step.