The beginning of a new year is a perfect time to set goals and start forming healthier habits. When it comes to self-improvement, becoming or staying active should definitely be on your list.
Not surprisingly, regular physical activity benefits your physical and mental health, as well as social well-being. It can also help you accomplish your other goals, like being more productive, sleeping better or reducing screen time.
While all these perks are great, if you don’t have easy access to a gym, or perhaps it’s simply not for you, it may be tempting to think that your options to get active are limited.
But we’re here to tell you that you don’t actually have to go to a gym to reap the benefits of regular physical activity! There are many other ways to get active that may not have even crossed your mind.
In the video and text below, you’ll find three ideas for New Year’s resolutions that don’t involve hitting the gym:
1. Put your sedentary habit to bed
Sedentary behaviours like watching TV, gaming or listening to music while sitting, reclining or lying down may all sound relaxing and harmless, but the consequences of doing too much of them are actually scary! Among adults, sedentary behaviour has come out as a the fourth leading risk factor for chronic disease risk and premature death. In fact, being sedentary for extended time periods can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Despite all this, only 12% of adults in Canada between the ages of 18 and 79 years limit sedentary time to the recommended max of eight hours a day.
Reducing sedentary time may lower the risks of the chronic diseases listed above, and when combined with moderate or high physical activity, low sedentary behaviour is associated with life satisfaction, happiness and perceived health status. Not to mention, reducing or breaking up extended periods of inactive sedentary time may make us more productive and focused.
Given all these perks, every half hour or so, take some time to move by either stretching, walking or wheeling around your space. If you work a desk job, consider buying a variable standing desk or asking your workplace for one. To help keep you on track, set reminders on your devices or alarm clock.
2. Get around with more active transportation
Active transportation is any form of human-powered transportation that gets you from point A to B. Currently, only 7% of adults in Canada use active travel like walking or bicycling to get to work (Statistics Canada, Census 2016), and just 39% of adults walk either part or all of the way to get to work or school or to get around generally.
It’s a shame that so few adults use active transportation to get around because it offers so many benefits. For example, it can help you get the recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 7,500 total daily steps, provide fitness benefits and help keep diabetes in check. In fact, walking to and from public transit can help adults get eight to 33 minutes more physical activity each day and accounts for 1,250 steps on average.
Not only is active transportation a great way to sneak in more physical activity into your day, it’s also better for the environment, offsetting air pollution from motorized vehicles and reducing CO2 emissions. So, next time you need to get somewhere, whether it’s work, school, an appointment, the store or someone’s home, consider walking, wheeling, cycling, in-line skating, skateboarding, scootering or even taking public transit instead of driving.
3. Do more LPA each day to keep the doctor away
Light physical activity (LPA) includes activities in your day-to-day life, such as casual walking, household chores or gardening. Just over half of adults in Canada between the ages of 18 and 79 years get at least three hours of it a day.
According to new evidence, adding more LPA to your day, even in short bouts such as a few minutes at a time, is beneficial. In older adults, greater LPA is related to positive physical health and well-being. LPA also provides meaningful improvements to depressive symptoms and benefits balance.
When it comes to health and wellness, all movement across the whole day matters. So, throughout the day, consider peppering in leisurely walks or light chores in and around your home or workplace. There’s no need to sweat to reap the benefits of moving more!
To find out how adults fared in other areas and how they can improve, check out the 2021 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults.