10 Everyday Habits That Help You Stay Active

Man walking up stairs

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Though it may seem like you need a fitness subscription or at least a home treadmill to maintain an active lifestyle, high-intensity workouts are not the only way to get your body moving. In fact, there are myriad ways you can incorporate movement into your everyday routine—no gym required. 

Upending sedentary habits in favor of more active ones yields some impressive results. People who move more tend to have lower body weight and a lower risk of medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. They also may experience an elevated mood and better energy levels.

Plus, adding small, simple habits of activity into your day can make exercise feel more like fun—and less like work. The more you make active choices part of your natural pattern, the more sustainable they will become.

How Much Movement People Need

Everyone is different, and there is no perfect one-size-fits-all target for daily or weekly movement. For general health purposes, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults ages 18 to 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, plus 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. Brisk walking is one example of moderate-intensity exercise.

For many people, this amount of activity may sound like a tall order. Only 53% of adults 18 and over meet the CDC’s guidelines for weekly aerobic activity, and only 23% meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

Still, it is important to remember that some activity is better than none. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of physical fitness, it is never too late to move your way in the right direction.

And if a busy schedule is a roadblock to getting active, there is no problem with breaking up your daily movement into smaller chunks. Even 5 or 10 minutes here or there adds up significant benefits for health. Here are 10 tips to help you move more.

Try a Stand-Up or Walking Meeting

Walking and thinking go hand in hand. In fact, according to a 2014 study, walking could increase creative output by an average of 60%. Take this principle to work by making your meetings mobile.

You will set an active tone for your co-workers as well as get your blood pumping and increase your caloric output. Even if you work from home, try pacing the room while on a phone call.

Keep Up With Housework

Housecleaning offers the one-two punch of creating a refreshed space and working your body. A bit of vigorous dish cleaning after dinner (perhaps instead of using the dishwasher), a weekend laundry spree, or squeegeeing the windows all work your muscles and elevate your heart rate.  

A 150-pound person could burn an impressive number of calories from a full hour of cleaning. Plus, there are a number of mental health benefits that come from having a clean home like a reduction in anxiety, depression, and negative mood.

Get Up During Commercials

Ever since the invention of the television, it has always been good advice to get up and move during commercial breaks. But now that many of us have access to streaming services for entertainment, we may not encounter commercials like we used to.

If you watch TV shows or movies without built-in breaks, make a habit of getting up in between each episode. Take a quick stretch, try a round of jumping jacks, or walk to the mailbox and back. A brief activity break may not be an actual workout, but it will get your heart pumping more than staying totally sedentary.

Move at a Consistent Time

Research shows that about 40% of our daily activities are driven by habit. One crucial factor behind habit creation, of course, is performing activities at the same time each day.

Just like you may be used to eating lunch around noon or dinner at 6 p.m., perhaps you could set a consistent time for physical activity. Knowing that your daily walk, jog, or swim will take place after work or every Saturday morning helps ingrain it as a habit, rather than a one-off experience.  

Motivate Your Exercise with Entertainment

These days, we all have a favorite podcast or playlist we enjoy tuning into. Why not let a page-turning audiobook or intriguing series add extra motivation to your exercise?

Listening to something interesting while you log miles gives you something to look forward to while you work out.

Move to the Music

When a song has a great groove, you just cannot keep yourself from moving to it. It is no wonder that research shows that music has amazing effects on physical activity. It distracts us from pain and fatigue and boosts endurance. The right tunes can even make exercise feel like less of an effort!

It is a smart habit to listen to a favorite playlist while working out. But even putting on upbeat music around the house could get you up and moving more.

Match Your Activity to Your Environment

In the absence of a gym membership, consider your environment as your own personal fitness center. Take stock of your physical location and give some thought to what activities are a natural fit.

Do you live near mountains? Take advantage by taking the occasional hike. Are you in a bustling urban center? Perhaps you can explore interesting nearby neighborhoods on foot. Viewing your surroundings through this lens could open up brand-new ways of seeking activity.

Take the Long Route

We have all heard the advice to take the stairs or park further away from the grocery store to increase our number of daily steps. While these may seem like trite tips, there really is something to choosing to go the extra mile (or just an extra few feet).

Not only do these choices up your physical activity in small bursts, they create a mindset that added challenge is a good thing. Viewing difficulties in this way could have meaningful trickle-down effect into other areas of life.

Start Your Day with a Stretch

You do not have to start the day with an hour of yoga to reap the benefits of stretching. A brief morning stretch of even 10 minutes can help limber up your muscles, improve your circulation, and set you up for a less stressful day. (Plus, it feels so very good.)

One small study found that a regular 10-minute stretching program helped people reduce anxiety and physical pain and boost flexibility. A few morning sun salutations could make a surprising difference for the day ahead.

Get the Family (or Pets) Involved

Making movement a family affair can provide inspiration and accountability for staying active. After all, we are more likely to stick to a healthy habit when we have others to join us.

If you have kids, try making an after-dinner walk or bike ride a regular family date. Even playing classic physical games like hide-and-seek or tag will get everyone up and moving.

Getting active with pet companions is another way to incorporate more movement. Tossing a ball with your pet or walking the dog can be fun and gets you moving.

A Word from Verywell

Increasing your activity level does not have to look like taking up a new sport or hitting the gym every day. Even small habits can set you on a path toward better health through more movement. Try any of these suggestions as a starting point—or invent your own.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.