I Chased My Naked Toddler! But What Really Counts as Physical Activity?

 

A perceived lack of time is a major barrier to exercise and fitness for many adults. Finding time to exercise typically isn’t high on our priority list. Especially when you have a 40 hour work week, are trying to finish a degree, and need to attend a kid’s extracurricular activity three times a week. Where are you supposed to squeeze in “me” time? I can’t tell you how many times I used to talk myself out of working out.

“It doesn’t fit into my busy schedule”

I currently work 40 hours per week. My commute to school, class time, and clinical hours total to 16-20 hours a week. Try to factor in time with my son, hanging out with family and friends, doing homework, sleep and exercise. Now I’ve decided to become a famous blogger?! Just thinking about my schedule gives me heartburn. However, I’ve learned to make small sacrifices to reach my health goals. One of the biggest changes I’ve made was cutting out TV time (no more Real Housewives for me). Why sit around watching other women live their fabulous lives?! I also had to get creative with time management and my workout plan after having my son and feeling like there was no time in the day to exercise. One example is using the “parent’s night out” that my son’s daycare offers to go to the gym instead of hanging out.

Before diving into my workout routine and fitness hacks, let’s first do a quick recap of my last post regarding the U.S. government’s physical activity guidelines and the overall improvements in physical, mental, and emotion health it provides.

· 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic physical activity per week to improve overall health. That translates to 2.5 to 5 hours of exercise. Moderate-intense activities generally get you moving but don’t wear you out. You are able to talk but not sing during the activity.

Image by Department of Health and Human Services via  Health.gov

Image by Department of Health and Human Services via Health.gov

· 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intense activity. This translates to 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2.5 hours of intense exercise. These exercises really get your heart pumping and are likely to cause some sweating. You would have difficulty talking during the activity.

Image by Department of Health and Human Services via  Health.gov

Image by Department of Health and Human Services via Health.gov

· Any activity is better than no activity. You get credit for standing up and walking around the office.

· Muscle training exercise two days per week (no guideline on time).

· Always consider your physical limitations when developing a fitness plan.

· Contact your healthcare provider with special considerations such as pregnancy, disability, or chronic disease.

I’d like to point out that nowhere in the guidelines are you advised to join a gym, hire a personal trainer, or enroll in a trendy class such as Soul Cycle or Orange Theory. Those perks are fun but also very costly. You are also not restricted to getting this accomplished in large blocks of time.

“Find a schedule that fits your lifestyle”

Two and a half hours can be divided into just 21 minutes of exercise per day. Remember to always warm-up and cool-down especially for aerobic activities to decrease injury.

Muscle strengthening activity is also recommended two days per week in addition to aerobic exercise. Working past your comfort level and allowing your muscles to get reasonably fatigued is a great way to build strength in major muscles of the arms, legs, hips, abdomen, shoulders, and back. This also helps decrease the likelihood of injury especially as we age. Stretching and foam rolling after muscle training activity are very crucial in reducing muscle soreness. Please keep in mind your own physical limitations, practice safe body mechanics, and safe equipment use when performing any exercise to avoid these types unsafe habits:

Using equipment such as dumbbell/weights is a great way to meet this criteria but isn’t absolutely necessary. Light weights such as three and five pounds or performing activities with resistance bands and even your own body weight is sufficient in the beginning. I have a set of 5, 10, 20, and 35-pound weights purchased from Amazon for my home exercise. I used the 5 and 10-pound weights the most when I first started exercising. I recently purchased the 20 and 35-pound sets.

If you don’t have time to get to a gym, consider taking advantage of free space in your living area to do push-ups, squats, and planks. They can help you build strength and endurance for more intense workouts or help you focus on problem areas (my mum tum). On any given day, my pot-belly could easily be mistaken for a three month old baby bump! That’s why I try to incorporate 15 – 30 minutes of core work every morning before getting ready for the day to help keep the bulge at bay.

Quick workouts while watching TV are my ultimate favorite because I somehow feel less guilty and more productive about binge-watching TV if I’m exercising. You might think that exercising during downtime is a terrible idea. My knee-jerk reaction would completely agree with you. However, think about all the psychological benefits that come along with exercise.

“You might feel more energy, less stress, and improved mental clarity from these bursts of activity”

Consider these other alternative forms of exercise that are more convenient and less pressure than going to the gym:

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These 10-20 minutes of activity might also seem pointless because the results aren’t apparent in the mirror. Of course it takes a reasonable amount of exercise and diet to accomplish and maintain a significant amount of weight loss. I’m referring to how you eat and not “dieting” or the restriction of specific types of foods for specific periods of time. I promote them because they may help you establish a habit. Your body and mind become more accustomed to movement. The thought of exercising for longer periods slowly becomes less daunting because you haven’t been sedentary.

Quick exercise sessions are also a great strategy to use when unexpected life issues come up such as, work projects, field trips, relocation, or change in jobs. While these changes can suddenly prevent you from engaging in your normal level of activity, finding small periods of time to keep your mind and body in motion helps you maintain the habit. They will keep you active until you can get back to that gym or fitness class you love so much.

“Start thinking of your fitness journey as a marathon not a sprint”

Starting small and going slow. It reduces the likelihood of injury and helps you build tolerance and endurance. It also helps you develop a pace that is more sustainable in the long run. Use the ideas above to kick-start your fitness journey. I sincerely hope you found something in this article to make things a little easier.

Citation:

 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition [PDF File].  Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html

Famatta Martina

Nurse, Health & Wellness Advocate, Fit Mom