Your Guide to Working More Movement Into Your Day
Workout by: Michael Lynch, M.S., RDN, CDE, RCEP
Why Moving More Matters
Exercise is often treated as a task to check off so that we can move on with our day-but the rest of our to-do lists usually involve a lot of sitting. It's tough to fit in movement when sedentary behavior is intertwined with all aspects of everyday life, says Michael Lynch, M.S., RDN, CDE, the registered clinical exercise physiologist who created this plan.
Make no mistake: setting aside 30 minutes each day for moderate exercise like walking or riding a bike is important. And it has amazing health benefits: improved insulin sensitivity, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep, to name a few. But experts now agree that what you do between exercise sessions can have just as big of an impact on your health and your diabetes management. All this incremental movement burns calories, reduces high blood sugar, and boosts insulin action. Plus, it all counts toward the overall goal of 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity each day of the week.
Build Your Move-More Plan
1. Map Out Your Week
Sketch out a calendar that lists each day of the week and breaks each day into half-hour blocks (Or download our Move-More Plan worksheet). Then, think about your typical week and go through each day: shade in the blocks during waking hours that you spend mostly sitting or reclined (see an example here). This can include commuting, using a computer, reading, and watching TV.
2. Identify Your Sedentary Blocks
With your map complete, take a look at the whole week at once without judgment. What do you notice? Tally up the hours that you spend sitting or reclining each day. Do you see any windows of time where you could choose to be more active? Are there other times where it would be less appropriate to move more?
3. Make Your Movement Plan
Look at any shaded blocks of 90 minutes or more-these present prime opportunities to work in more movement. Think about how you could add in a few minutes of activity here and there. To set your plan into motion, use a different-color marker to draw lines at the times you're committing to move.
4. Choose Your Movement
Any activity counts! Aim to move for a few minutes every 30 minutes. Need ideas? The exercises in our Move More workout were all designed to break up sedentary time. Start small by choosing one or two moves, or combine moves to fit your situation.
Pick Your Moves
Plan on doing one or all of these easy-to-follow moves!
Standing Side Crunch
10 crunches on each side
1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and knees soft. Gently rest your hands on the back of your head, elbows out (A).
2. To begin, shift your weight to your left foot. Simultaneously raise your right knee and lower your right elbow with the intention of touching them together. Return to the starting position and repeat. Focus on originating the movement from your core (not your leg or shoulder). To make this easier, place your opposite hand on a table or wall for added balance.
8 crawl-steps forward + 8 crawl-steps backward
1. Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees and feet at a 90-degree angle, toes pointed down to the floor. Contract your core and use your leg muscles to lift your knees a few inches off the ground, so your hips are parallel with the floor. Now your hands and toes are the only things in contact with the ground.
2. Aim to keep this form with your knees close to the ground as you simultaneously move your right hand and left foot forward to crawl.
3. Continue, crawling across the room. When you reach a stopping point, crawl backward by simultaneously moving one hand and the opposite foot back until you return to your starting point. If you have limited space, you can take two steps forward, then two steps backward. As you crawl, be mindful and remember to breathe. The goal: small, smooth, and gentle movements.
Front Punch, Cross & Kick Combo
4 combos on each side
1. Begin in a boxing stance with your right foot facing forward and your left foot behind it, slightly opened to the left. With your knees soft, raise your fists up near your chin, as if you are guarding your face. Lean forward slightly and engage your core as if to brace for a punch. This is your ready stance.
2. Jab your front (right) fist forward: keep your fist tight and extend your arm with control, finishing with your palm facing downward. Bring your fist back to guard your face.
3. Next, throw a forward punch across your body with your left fist. Generate more power by rotating your shoulders and hips forward, pivoting on your left foot, as you punch. Return to ready stance.
4. Last move: forward kick. Transfer your weight to your front (right) foot and gently lean forward as you lift your left knee toward your chest and drive through your heel to kick forward. Kick only as high as you're comfortable. Return to ready stance. Repeat this combo three more times, then switch sides so your left foot is in front.
1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Point and align your toes and knees outward, opening your hips as feels comfortable. Press your palms together in front of you to help keep your chest and head up.
2. Lower into a squat, keeping your knees behind your toes and your weight in your heels to protect your joints. Begin with shallow squats and work toward stopping just before your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Push up to the starting position.
Isometric Biceps Hold
Hold for 30 seconds
This is an isometric exercise, which means it involves contracting and holding a muscle without moving it. (It's a stealthy way to get some exercise in at work.)
Sit behind a heavy table or desk (that you cannot lift) with your shoulders back and down, chest and head up, and feet flat on the floor. Use a chair that allows your elbows to be at about the same height as the table. Place your palms on the underside of the table, with your thumb wrapped around the top. (If the table is too thick, keep your thumb underneath.) From this position, engage your biceps muscles and attempt to lift the table. How hard you make this is up to you. The goal: Find a tension that you can hold consistently for a full 30 seconds. When you're finished, gently release the contraction.
Seated Knee Lift
10 knee lifts
1. Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your knees bent and toes touching the floor. Grasp the sides of the chair behind your hips with a secure grip. Engage your core and arm muscles, and lean back slightly, keeping your back straight and chest high.
2. Keep your upper body here as you exhale, grip the chair, and bring your knees toward your chest, stopping at a height that is right for you. Then, keeping your upper body still, lower your knees and gently tap your toes to the ground. Use your grip on the chair to help you lift and lower your legs and keep you steady. Challenge yourself by slowing this movement down, raising and lowering your legs with control rather than using momentum. Note: If you experience back pain at any time during this exercise, stop and rest. Before beginning again, analyze your form. Try engaging your core (as if bracing for impact), putting more weight on your arms, or lifting your feet only a few inches off the ground.
10 heel touches on each side
1. Sit tall in the middle of a chair with your shoulders back, chest and head up, and feet flat on the floor. Engage your core and place your arms at your sides with your hands hanging in front of the chair, fingers pointed down.
2. Begin by reaching your left hand straight down toward your heels, keeping your chest and head facing forward, until you feel a gentle stretch in your right side. Return to sitting upright, allowing the movement to stem from your waist. Pause here to re-engage your core, then switch sides. Aim for slow and smooth back-and-forth movements.
8 chair dips
1. Sit in a sturdy chair. Place your hands on the front edge of the seat, on either side of your hips. Roll your shoulders back to keep your chest elevated and head up. Push up through your shoulders to lift yourself up off the seat. Practice raising and lowering here. When you're comfortable, walk your feet out so that your hips clear the chair.
2. To dip down, slowly lower your hips as your elbows bend behind you. Lower only as far as you are comfortable pushing up from, stopping before your elbows are at 90 degrees. Lift back up using your arms, shoulders, and legs.