7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Fitness

Lifting weights and sweating through cardio sessions shouldn’t only be goals for fitness enthusiasts. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. This should involve a combination of cardio and resistance training. Benefits to achieving this target include improved heart health, cognitive function, and sleep.

As important as it is, exercising on a regular basis can be difficult for plenty of people. Balancing work and family obligations can often leave little time for self-care and exercise, and finding the motivation to work out at the end of a long day can be challenging. However, there are relatively easy ways to improve your fitness—no long, punishing gym sessions or insane diets required.

Below are seven simple things you can do to not only meet AHA exercise guidelines, but also improve your overall health.

Get Moving

You don’t necessarily have to designate big blocks of time to exercise to reach AHA’s 150-minute guideline. Sure, you can take an hour before or after work to run or jog, but simply walking while performing other tasks is acceptable. Walking your dog, for instance, counts as moderate activity. Walking while taking calls for work is also a great idea to easily burn some calories.

Another option is to exercise in quick spurts. Research has shown that completing four to six 30-second sprints is equally beneficial to your heart health as a moderate workout of 40 to 60 minutes. Consider sprinting to and from the mailbox or even jumping rope for a few minutes.

Exercise at Your Desk

It’s really not that difficult to burn more calories and engage in moderate physical activity during the average work day. Simply standing up burns calories at a slightly quicker pace compared to sitting down. There’s also a range of exercises that can easily be performed right at your desk. These include tricep dips, arm pulses, arm circles, desk push-ups, chair squats, and oblique twists, all of which can be done during downtime in small increments throughout the day.

For a more structured office workout, consider subscribing to Break Pal. This program involves push notifications that pop up on your monitor every 30 minutes with a series of exercises to complete in three minutes.

Treadmill and TV

It’s not uncommon to want to unwind and zone out in front of a comforting TV show at the end of a long work day. But you don’t have to be stationary while doing so. Instead, park a stationary bike or treadmill in front of your TV and burn some calories while you watch. If you don’t own any exercise equipment, visit the gym to watch your favorite shows.

Drive Less

Try to walk or ride a bike whenever possible. If your intended destination is within a 30-minute walk and you have the time to get there and back, save yourself the gas and the trouble of finding a parking spot. Not only will you receive the heart health benefits of physical activity, but you will also benefit simply from being outside. Spending time outdoors helps you get vitamin D, which supports bone health and boosts your immune system. Other benefits include stress and anxiety reduction as well as improved focus and creativity.

Inconvenience Yourself

You can easily increase the amount of calories you burn on a daily basis simply by inconveniencing yourself when possible. For example, if you have to drive somewhere, park at the back of the lot as opposed to near the storefront. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is another easy and effective way to burn additional calories.

Choose Lean Meats

Diet is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To that end, it’s important to eat relatively small-portioned meals with lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and seafood. These foods are high in muscle-building protein and are packed with healthy nutrients that support physical activity.

Eating five or six smaller meals as opposed to two or three large meals per day will also benefit your breathing when performing higher intensity workouts. Other appropriate high-protein foods include soybeans, pork tenderloin, whole eggs, black beans, and almonds. In addition to benefits such as increased metabolism, eating a high-protein diet can help burn calories. It’s estimated that as much as 30 percent of protein calories are burned during the digestive process.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 should sleep at least seven hours per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is crucial to maintain energy levels and support muscle recovery, but it can also promote healthier eating habits. A 2013 study published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care found a link between lack of sleep and increased risk of obesity.

Fortunately, getting enough sleep shouldn’t be hard if you exercise regularly. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep have performed studies linking exercise to improved sleep quality. Thirty minutes of moderate aerobic activity is all it takes to see these benefits.

“It’s generally not going to take months or years to see a benefit,” notes Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital medical director Charlene Gamaldo. “And patients don’t need to feel like they have to train for the Boston Marathon to become a better sleeper.”