Intimidated by the thought of exercise? Not sure how you’ll find the time, or even how to get started?
In my work as a physical therapist, I help clients explore their movement on a daily basis. Most people end up in our clinic because they’ve always struggled to form an “exercise” habit.
But what if we framed the conversation around movement instead of exercise? How much does that change the conversation?
A shift in perspective might be all you need to meet your health goals. If you get enough movement in your day, there would be less of a need for a formal exercise program.
There are an infinite number of ways you can alter your home environment to facilitate more movement. And better yet, this can happen with little to no investment in time or equipment. All it takes is a little thinking outside the box. Below is a list of suggestions to get you started.
I have yet to see anyone carry their laundry basket using optimal alignment. It’s clunky, awkward and often more of a safety hazard than a help. Ditch your laundry basket today and carry your laundry in your arms instead. Does this make your life less convenient? Yes. But it’s a great movement hack. You’ll likely have to make a few trips to your washing machine, but this causes you to double or triple the number of steps you take to perform this task. Carrying small loads also helps you focus more on shoulder and ribcage alignment for core strengthening.
Continuing with the laundry theme, start drying some of your clothes on a rack or clothesline instead of using your dryer. The act of hanging each item up gives you an opportunity to squat and use your shoulder range of motion. As an added bonus, you can save on the energy needed to run the dryer and make your clothes last longer.
Do you have a home office? If so, you have a lot of potential to modify it and create a dynamic work station. In recent years we’ve been bombarded with articles about the dangers of sitting at a desk for long amounts of time. It’s not so much the sitting that’s a problem but the lack of movement. Stationary standing also comes with its own set of problems.
Instead, create a work area that would allow for different positions. Create a simple desk set up to allow for standing at your computer. But give yourself the opportunity to move and stretch while standing. See if you can swap some of your chair sitting time out for floor sitting, or at least change your chair set up.
Above I stated these suggestions come with little to no investment of equipment. If you already have a half foam roll, great! If not, grab yourself a towel and roll it up. It creates the same effect.
To encourage and remind yourself to move and stretch often, keep half foam rolls around your home in areas you spend the most time. Some ideas include keeping one in front of your kitchen sink to stretch your calves while washing dishes, in your bathroom for when you brush your teeth or the room you relax in the most to take frequent movement breaks.
This is the simplest and most powerful movement hack on this list. When you exchange chair sitting for floor sitting, you not only get the strengthening and mobility benefits of getting on and off the floor but also the opportunity for more active sitting. Sitting on the floor requires that you use more of your own strength than sinking into a couch. Start slow, and continue to add more floor sitting time and variety of floor sitting positions. Keep yourself stacks of pillows, blankets, half foam rolls, and anything else you can find to support yourself to meet your body where it’s at now. Over time, you won’t have to modify as much.
Even considering the height of your bed is a great way to get extra movement in your day. The taller your bed, the less work your legs need to do to get you in it. See if you can change your bed set up to move your mattress lower for more opportunities to squat.
It’s ingrained in our society to set our lives up so we have to work less. But for your health and mobility, you should think the opposite. Simple changes like using a cloth to clean your floor instead of a mop can change this chore into a workout full of squat walking and floor transfers. And it likely will take the same amount of time.
Another unconventional choice, as we’re trained to make our grocery shopping as convenient as possible. By avoiding grocery bags, you’ll have to do more work to get your grocery into the house which is a major benefit to your health! This swap gives you an opportunity to get more walking and also the endless possibilities to vary your carry.
Another unconventional way to make your chores less convenient. Electronic appliances have outsourced the work of your own body. Simple changes like switching to a manual coffee grinder instead of electric opens up the opportunity to improve your grip strength. Same with stirring by hand instead of using an electric mixer.
Take your kitchen work up to the next level by modifying your set up. If you can, move your cutting board to the floor to squat while you chop veggies (though not recommended if you have pets). If this isn’t an option, use the time you spend washing dishes or chopping veggies to be more mindful of your alignment, vary your standing, stretch your calves, or mobilize your feet.
This tip is an easy one if you have young kids. When is the last time you played tag? Or hide and seek? You’d be surprised at how much movement is involved, and best of all it’s just fun. Find opportunities throughout your day to be more playful and creative. Check out Darryl Edwards of Primal Play for a great introduction to this concept.
The above tips are all a little unconventional. But if you’ve struggled to start or maintain an exercise habit despite concerns for your health a movement-based lifestyle is for you! Which of the above tips can you do today?