USDA Dietary Guidelines: Easy Ways to Start Exercising

Adding Activity to Your Daily Routine

There are many opportunities to be more active in your daily routine. You'll be surprised at how easily you can fit in a little bit of activity here, a little more movement there. At first it's 10 minutes, then 20, then suddenly you've worked 30 extra minutes of movement into your day without doing any structured type of activity. Make a game of it -- it can be fun! Encourage family members to join in, and you'll all become healthier together.

Here are just some of the ways to increase your activity. Pick one or create your own!

  • Put away the remote controls. Getting up every time you want to adjust electronic equipment burns more calories than pressing a button.
  • Talking on the phone? Put on a headset so that you can walk or do household chores instead of sitting.
  • Waiting for the microwave? Walk or dance around the kitchen, or use cans from the cupboards as weights and pump up your arms until the microwave's done.
  • Be active when you're watching TV. Lift weights, walk on a treadmill or other home aerobic equipment, jump rope (not every day, as this is hard on the joints), stretch -- there are lots of things you can do while in front of the tube.
  • Give up just a percentage of your TV viewing per week and be active instead -- take a walk or do an aerobics video. This is especially painless to do if you tape your favorite shows, then watch them later and fast-forward through the commercials. You'll minimize your sitting time without missing your programs!
  • When you're riding in the car, move your lower body frequently. Tap your toes, do heel-toe presses into the floor, squeeze the muscles in your buttocks together, then squeeze one side at a time, alternating sides. If you're the driver instead of a passenger, do these moves while waiting at a stoplight -- just keep your foot on the brake! Once you're at work, do the same moves occasionally while sitting at your desk.
  • If feasible, walk to work or ride your bike.
  • When at work, take a walk instead of sitting in the breakroom, and take a walk during part of your lunch period. Recruit a coworker or two to go with you. Soon the social aspect of talking while walking will keep you wanting to walk.
  • At a sporting event? Find a place where you can pace along the sidelines rather than watch from the sitting area.
  • If you're out shopping, take a couple of quick laps around the mall first. Not only does this burn calories, it has the added bonus of letting you check out the displays and plan your shopping venture.
  • Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators whenever possible. Take the stairs several times throughout the day or walk them intentionally on your break.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in the car. Pull them out whenever you have some extra time.
  • Park farther away from your destination, as long as it's safe to do so, to build in a little extra activity time. Or get off the bus or subway several stops before the one closest to where you're going. Allow extra time to walk the final distance.
  • After work, school, or dinner, take a walk with the family or neighbors before settling in for the evening.
  • Take the long way around when you're walking. Whether it's around the city or merely to the water cooler at the office, find the longest way possible to get there. Include hills or stairs if you can.
  • Waiting at the bus stop? Walk around instead of standing or sitting.
  • Get up and walk to a coworker's desk instead of calling or e-mailing.
  • Sitting at a table, desk, or computer? Do the same activities described for sitting in a car--toe tapping, toe-heel presses, and buttocks squeezes. Be sure to stretch, too; repeat several times.

In the next section we will look at more exercising tips, including adding more muscle and keeping your calorie balance in mind.