In the modern world with our hectic and busy lifestyles, it can seem as though there aren’t enough hours in the day to get the basics on our to-do list ticked off – let alone squeeze in an hour of exercise each day. However, exercise is something we need to prioritise not just for our physical wellbeing but also our mental health, so it’s important that we embrace movement and not avoid it! That’s where incidental exercise comes in…
“incidental; adjective - happening as a minor accompaniment to something else.”
The beauty of incidental exercise is that, just as the above definition suggests, it happens as an accompaniment to something you are already doing. In other words, instead of dropping everything to devote your precious time to physical activity, you can incorporate short bursts of exercise that fit in with your routine and don’t stand in the way of other important tasks.
Not only does this make daily exercise much more achievable but it also encourages a more active lifestyle in the long-term, rather than the short-lived health kicks we all forget about as quickly as we’ve started them!
Short bursts of exercise are not just beneficial for our physical health but can also help to look after our mental wellness. Actively incorporating micro-movements into your daily routine has some important benefits for the mind, such as instilling focus, fighting fatigue, releasing mood-enhancing endorphins and banishing stress throughout the day.
What’s more, if you have tried and failed to stick to a workout regimen in the past, then succeeding at micro-movements can help to repair your relationship with and mindset towards exercise. Taking a little and often approach to increasing your physical activity is a great way to compartmentalise your goals and avoid overwhelming workouts.
Incidental exercise is less about writing a list of tasks that you tick off along the way, but more to do with taking movement wherever it comes and rolling with it! Once you get into the swing of things you will soon glance fresh eyes on your environment and daily routine, seeking out opportunities for more active ways to do things all the time.
Here are some great examples of how you can boost your physical activity at home and at work to support your mental and physical wellbeing daily.
From now on, your home is your playground! Here’s how to move more at home.
· Active Cleaning – Put on your favourite playlist and turn your cleaning duties into a full body workout – cleaning is a great example of incidental activity, which involves stretching, lifting, cardio and tests our stamina and endurance under the guise of chores!
· Pet Play & Exercise – Pets are great workout buddies; their boundless energy will always surpass ours and their infectious enjoyment of mental stimulation makes us want to play for longer! Play hide and seek with your dog or bring out the cat toys for some active pet play.
· Movement Milestones – We all deserve and enjoy some downtime and sometimes there is nothing better than a duvet day with a good boxset. But when you’re chilling out the time can fly by, so watching the clock and aiming to get up and move every hour or so can avoid a completely sedentary day.
· Active Play with the Kids – If you have kids then you will know all too well that pretty much everything kid-related involves incidental movement! If your kids are enjoying too much screen-time, why not tempt them into the great outdoors for a walk, wildlife hunt or a simple game of tag?
· Spending Time in Nature – Nature has some amazing benefits for mental health, helping to reduce stress and anxiety and induce calm. So, if you can pair nature with incidental exercise then that’s a recipe for success when it comes to overall wellbeing! Try venturing off the beaten track and awakening your inner child with a bit of tree climbing or river plodging.
· Cook Up A Storm in the Kitchen – Tackling a challenging recipe can be a kitchen workout in disguise. Not only are you on your feet but you’re also buys grating, whisking, chopping and busy with other hidden micro-movements. The bonus? A delicious healthy meal to reward all your hard work when you’re finished!
· Get in the Garden – It’s the perfect time of year to get into the garden and enjoy some more time in the great outdoors. Tending to your garden is a great workout, with shovelling, pruning and pulling out weeds all counting toward your daily micro-movements. If you don’t have your own garden you could look into renting an allotment, or even just start your own indoor herb garden.
Incidental Exercise at Work
Whether you’re working from home, in the office or a bit of both – try these simple suggestions to boost your exercise with daily micro-movements for your working day.
· Energise Your Commute – If walking, running or cycling to work is realistic then that’s great! If not, try parking the car further away from the office or making time for a brisk morning walk before work. Just 15 minutes of walking outdoors can improve mood and set you up for a positive start to the day.
· Choose the Stairs Over the Lift – If you don’t often opt for the stairs then you will notice that they can be a little challenging when you first tackle them. Take the stairs daily to increase your stamina and endurance little by little, a simple and effective way to get your heart rate going at work.
· Organise Standing Meetings – When meetings are a big part of your day it can mean sitting in a chair for hours. Not only is this an obstacle to increasing your exercise, but it’s also bad for circulation and posture. Try suggesting a standing meeting to your team, or better yet a walking meeting if it just involves a couple of you.
· Walk to a Colleague You Would Usually Call or Email – Ever find yourself emailing someone who is sat just across the office from you? Modern technology is a blessing and a curse! Make a point of meeting in person – not only will you squeeze in a short walk, but you’ll also enjoy a real face to face conversation which nurtures effective working relationships.
· Get Out on Your Lunch Break – After a busy morning and a bite to eat it can be easy to feel the midday fatigue settle in. Follow your lunch with a brisk walk outdoors for some fresh air and a simple way to reenergise and revitalise for the afternoon ahead. This will also help to clear your mind and boost focus and mental clarity for the afternoon ahead.
Incidental exercise is yours for the taking, wherever you are. These simple and easy micro-movements are a great way to proactively support your physical and mental health throughout the day, often in a more enjoyable format than conventional exercise.
Once you start to recognise this, you will begin to instil healthy habits that will help you to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and promote an active lifestyle that nurtures mental and physical wellness.