When you're too busy for workout classes and too broke for a gym membership, it can be tough to figure out what counts as a good workout in your hectic lifestyle. Like, does walking an extra 10 minutes during your morning commute in lieu of taking the subway count? What about taking your dog out for a walk? Well, in case you didn't know, there's actually an official rule of thumb you can look to here, called the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just published an updated version of the guidelines for the first time in a decade.
The good news is, you're probably going to like what the new guidelines entail, because the definition of "exercise" has been tweaked a bit, according to BuzzFeed News. See, the actual recommendations for how often you should exercise per week haven't changed; the updated guidelines, which have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), still state that adults should aim for at least two and a half to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, in addition to "muscle-strengthening activities" at least two days per week.
But the new guidelines encourage you to think about exercise in a different way. For one thing, the updated recommendations "emphasize that moving more and sitting less will benefit nearly everyone," and they also state that your workouts don't necessarily need to be that long — not even 10 minutes long, according to JAMA. What's more, the research itself even names simple stuff like taking the stairs, parking further away, and gardening as things that can all count as a workout.
Are you rejoicing yet? Because this is something to celebrate, friends. Movement is meant to be a positive experience, and these new guidelines encourage a simpler, more flexible approach to exercise. In other words, working out doesn't just have to be this thing that's a means to an end and thus stresses you out even more. "Exercise is an incredibly important part of everyday life," David Wiener, a training specialist for fitness app Freeletics, tells Elite Daily over email. "And [in order] to stay healthy or improve our overall health and well-being, it is important to incorporate both aerobic and strength training.
Plus, Wiener adds, "lots of the daily tasks we perform count as exercise in some capacity," just as the updated guidelines state.
According to Wiener, there are lots of easy ways to increase the amount of physical activity you do, without drastically changing your lifestyle.
"For example, any activities which raise your heart rate will count as an aerobic activity, be it gardening, walking, or opting to take the stairs," Wiener explains. "It’s true any movement is better than none at all, so you could try taking the dog out for a walk, cleaning the house, or sitting on a Swiss ball while you’re watching TV (this will engage your core, and adding some bounce will count as an aerobic activity)."
To strengthen your muscles, on the other hand, you don't necessarily have to go lift weights in the gym, according to Wiener, "but it could be as easy as doing exercises which use your own bodyweight, such as push-ups, or sit-ups, or digging out in the garden," the trainer says.
Other ways to become more active without drastically revamping your routine, Wiener suggests, include walking when you're able to do so instead of taking the bus or driving, taking regular breaks to walk around at work, or you can even do some quick, easy moves while cooking at home (such as squats, jumping jacks, or lunges).
"In truth," Wiener says, "anything which counts as moving qualifies as exercise, and is better than sitting sedentary on the couch."