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No time to exercise? The quick and easy guide to add more movement into your day

Step up your physical activity with these simple ways to increase the amount of time you spend moving

You already know physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week, which averages out to about 15 to 30 minutes of exercise per day for five days a week. Meeting these benchmarks is great. However — and not to be discouraging here — they don’t form the only barometer for daily activity. Research shows that you can still get the recommended physical activity and lead a sedentary lifestyle if your job isn’t very active.

There’s no need to quit your day job if it’s a desk job, though. A few simple steps can help you add more movement to your day.

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How many steps should I be getting per day?

Step-counting long been considered a way to gauge movement, particularly since daily physical activity can’t be calculated through exercise minutes and intensity alone. How a person spends the rest of the day matters too.

Typically, the benchmark of 10,000 steps has been hailed as the gold standard. However, that was based on a 1960s marketing campaign for a pedometer. A study published in October of 2022 says about 8,000 steps can reduce the risk of many diseases and chronic conditions, including sleep apnea and diabetes. The problem is that tracking steps is hard. You’re probably not counting them, and studies show that some trackers like Fitbit don’t always give accurate counts. They can provide a solid estimate, though, and encourage you to add more movement to your daily activity. Ultimately, the key is to move as much as possible within reason.

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Ways to add more movement to your daily activity

You don’t have to run a marathon to move more each day. Here are some simple tips.

Take the stairs

You’ve probably heard this tip before: Opting for the stairs over an elevator or escalator as often as possible is a way to step up your daily activity — literally. There’s a reason this advice is popular: It’s backed by science. Research from 2021 found that daily stair climbing can reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is marked by symptoms like high cholesterol and diabetes, both of which can increase your risk of heart disease.

Stretch at your desk

Though desk stretches don’t add to your step count, they do count as movement. Your muscles will thank you if you have a desk job. Though we often focus on stretching to warm-up and cool-down before and after exercise, sitting in one position for too long can cause stiffness. Try:

  • Reaching your arms overhead
  • Extending your clasped hands behind your back while pushing out the back
  • Twisting your torso to either side while leaving your feet on the ground

Walking lunches and meetings

Give on-the-go lunches and meetings a new meaning by taking them to the streets. Sandwiches and bottled water are easy to eat and drink while walking. You can do the same for meetings. Mute video if allowed and walk around your neighborhood as you discuss your to-dos with colleagues. You may find the movement and endorphins lower your stress and make you a better employee.

Remind yourself to move

It’s easy to get lost in your other daily tasks and forget to move. Some trackers, such as the Apple Watch, will automatically ping you to move if you haven’t in a while. If you don’t want to wear a tracker or don’t have one, you can simply set reminders on your phone. Try setting a reminder for once an hour. When it goes off, get up, walk around the office or your home, or stretch.

Walk a dog

A dog is always a human’s best friend, but pups are especially beneficial for people trying to get more physical activity. Research shows that people who walk their dogs generally move more and enjoy health benefits like reduced likelihood of developing a chronic condition such as cardiovascular disease. If you have a dog, this tip is easy. Ensure the pup gets daily walks (which will keep them healthy too). If you don’t have a dog, consider volunteering at your local shelter. You’ll make a dog’s day (and may even bring one home).

Exercise is a fantastic way to stay active, but heading out for a 30-minute jog in the morning and sitting for the rest of the day won’t get your body the physical activity it needs. New research indicates that around 8,000 to 9,000 steps per day can lower your risk for many chronic diseases and conditions while keeping your weight in check. Small actions add up. Try taking the stairs or doing walking meetings and lunches. Though wearable devices don’t necessarily give accurate step counts, they can motivate you to move more. Apple Watch reminds people to stand every hour if they haven’t moved much during the previous 60 minutes. You can also put reminders on your phone. Focus on your individual physical and emotional health over step benchmarks. Everybody (and every body) needs different amounts of movement to stay healthy. A doctor can provide you with more actionable advice.

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