I used to run a few miles every morning. On the rare days I didn’t run, I swam laps, played tennis, hiked in the woods, or went on a bike ride. And I owned a library of yoga and pilates DVDs.
These days I hardly even think about exercise, and the tennis rackets and workout DVDs are in the closet gathering dust. But the weird thing is – I feel fitter now. So I was fascinated to find that some research supports what I’ve been noticing.
Daily Physical Activity Trumps Exercise
I spend most of my days carrying or chasing my active 16-month old baby, and my house, yard, and gardens require nearly constant labor. My family walks or rides bikes most everywhere we go – to the grocery store, library, park, and to friends’ houses. And I rarely stop moving during the day, except when I’m writing. Sure, sometimes I miss those long solo runs and challenging yoga workouts, but I just don’t have much energy to spare at the end of my days.
Mayo Clinic physician Dr. James Levine’s research makes me think it might not just be my imagination. I may actually be in better shape now than back when my idea of relaxation was a power yoga session. The results of Levine’s study on obesity indicate that if you want to achieve a healthy body weight, it’s more effective to put more of what Levine calls NEAT — “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” — into your life than to seek out organized exercise. NEAT includes the activities of daily life that are not planned physical activity, like standing, walking, talking, cleaning, fidgeting, or diving to rescue a 16-month old before he pulls the Oxford English Dictionary onto his head.
Moreover another large study suggests that the frequent moderate activity of daily life helps prevent cancer better than more infrequent, but intense recreational activity. In the nine-country European breast cancer study of more than 200,000 women, of all the household and recreational exercise women did, household activity – including housework, home repair, gardening, and stair climbing – was the only activity that significantly reduced breast cancer risk.
Increasing your daily activity, or NEAT, is easy, and the best part is, you not only get a healthy body, you get to mark things off your to-do list. Plus, increasing your NEAT usually means turning off power tools and ramping up human power. And that contributes to a cleaner, healthier planet for all of us.
Here are 7 great ways to increase your NEAT as the weather gets colder.
- Leave the car at home.
How can you increase your physical activity, be healthier, feel better, make the world a cleaner, more beautiful place while you get where you need to go? Reduce your car use. Whether you bike, walk, or take public transportation, you’re certain to add more activity to your day when you ditch the automobile. And as a perk, alternative transportation is usually more fun than sitting in traffic and searching for parking spots.
- Prepare the yard for winter
In most climates, fall is a great time to plant bulbs, harvest and dry or freeze herbs, save seeds, clear away dead foliage, and plant cover crops. And yards offer opportunities for healthy activity for any season.
- Rake leaves
Several years ago, I lived next to a dental office with the most manicured lawn I’ve ever seen. Teams of landscapers descended on it every day with gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and shrub trimmers. The noise was deafening. Since then, I’ve become a huge fan of the humble (and quiet) rake.
- Hang laundry
Take advantage of sunny days to hang laundry on the line. Drying diapers or whites in the sun helps bleach and disinfect them. Line-drying also saves money, conserves energy, and helps clothes last longer. During the winter, you can dry clothes on a rack inside in most climates, which also helps to humidify dry indoor air.
- Split and stack firewood
Burning wood is arguably not the greenest way to heat a house, but it can be remarkably economical (and cozy). Plus, preparing the winter wood supply an excellent workout for a crisp autumn day.
- Handwash dishes
The jury’s still out on whether it’s greener to hand wash or machine wash dishes. It depends on how you’re hand-washing and rinsing and on how energy-efficient your dishwasher is. (See an analysis of the carbon footprint of each method here.) In our household, handwashing conserves both money and energy. On the downside, it hogs a lot of precious counter space. However, I tend to enjoy hand washing. It’s a pleasant, meditative task, and it’s just the sort of frequent, moderate exercise those studies suggest is so good for us.
If you have little ones in your life, you already know how much energy you can burn jumping into piles of leaves, building forts, playing Red Rover, or just carrying or chasing after the little speed-racers. If you don’t have kids, I’m sure a neighbor, friend, or family member would be happy to share the fun for a few hours (so he or she can take a nap).You don't need to go to the gym to get fit. Try these 7 ways to increase your activity.Click To Tweet
If you liked this post, you may enjoy these related posts:
- Want Healthy, Happy Kids? Walk with Them.
- The Art of Walking
- Living Local
- Confessions from the Car-Free Life
- Ditch the Life Coach and Do the Daily Chores
What are your favorite ways to stay active and fit?