This post was written by an external contributor. Katherine Sayer shares her secrets on staying fit and healthy on a tight schedule.
Striking a balance between your work life, your social life and your sleep cycle is hard enough, if the prevalence of memes on this topic is anything to go by. So the thought of having to squeeze regular gym sessions and staying fit into an already crammed timetable can be enough to make even the most organised person blanche.
Yet, in the era of fast food and ready meals, the importance of keeping healthy and staying fit is higher than ever. These exercise hacks can help you adjust your normal daily routine to keep fit on the go.
During your commute
The obvious adjustments, such as walking or cycling to work, are often easier said than done, especially if yours is a long commute. Instead, try making small adjustments to your journey that lengthen the amount of time you spend on your feet.
Take the stairs when you leave the station – you burn one calorie for every six steps you walk up, so those who commute to Hampstead Tube Station (with its 320 steps) will burn 50 calories every morning just by choosing not to take the escalator.
Stand on the tube instead of sitting, as standing for an hour burns 50 calories more than sitting for an hour, and since you’ll be sitting down all day at work anyway, it’s hardly like you need a rest.
If you commute by bus, try out some tiptoe exercises while waiting at the bus stop – tiptoe raises, where you stand flatfooted, then raise yourself on to your tiptoes, then repeat – make an excellent workout for your calves, even if they do incite strange glances from your fellow passengers.
At the office
A recent NHS survey suggested that 4/5 Brits work a sedentary office job, so if this is you, there are definitely ways you can shape your day so that sitting behind a computer screen doesn’t translate itself to your waist line.
Ask your boss if you can sit on a gym ball instead of a chair – you won’t feel the difference, but this will force your body to make small, imperceptible adjustments in order to maintain balance, which will work your core muscles and burn calories. It will also make you more aware of your posture, as the lack of back support will make you conscious of sitting up straighter.
Alternatively, invest in a mini exercise bike (or ‘Desk Cycle’), a kind of tiny pedal-pusher that fits under your desk, enabling you to replicate the motions of cycling without leaving your workstation – perfect for multitasking.
In your lunch break
While it is definitely good for your health to get some fresh air on your lunchbreak, there’s no need to spend your lunch hour going for runs or taking a yoga class if you simply haven’t got time. High intensity cardiovascular workouts are as effective as low intensity but longer sessions – so if you can’t fit in a half hour jog, try a so-called ‘7-minute work-out’ instead.
Developed by the Human Performance Institute, the theory is that an intense 7-minute workout is as good for the body as a low intensity gym session, and far easier to put into practice in an office environment. Guides to the kind of exercise you can partake in as part of a 7-minute workout can be found for free on YouTube, but rest assured, 7-minute workouts won’t demand any specialist equipment as the only resistance they require is from your existing body weight.
If, by some miracle, you find that you do have time for a gym session in your lunch break, keep it productive by multitasking and listening to a lecture or podcast while you work out. It can seem tempting to pound along to EDM, but the dulcet tones of Melvyn Bragg or Brian Cox will keep your brain in shape while your body works out, thus maximising productivity.
For some free podcasts on science and culture, the BBC iPlayer Radio app contains lots of archived Radio 4 podcasts that you can download and listen to without internet.
Given that being sedentary has been linked to an increased likelihood of a heart attack (according to the NHS website, sitting all day can double the risk), you want to minimise the amount of time you spend sitting down out of office hours.
When meeting friends to socialise, opt for more active ways of catching up than simply going for a drink or sitting in a pub. Going for a walk together is much better for your health than more passive activities, while enabling you the same opportunity to catch up and saving you money.
If you replaced an hour of going for coffee with an hour of walking, you could burn between 1,000 and 1,500 calories per week – and gain a reputation as the quirky friend who goes for walks instead of cocktails.
So, forget the New Year’s Resolution to take up Karate – you’re never going to go swimming every morning at 5am. Instead, try out some of these minor adjustments to your daily life in order to save money, increase productivity, keep fit and stay healthy – you need never sell your soul to a multiplex gym ever again.