According to a recent Bloomberg article, millennials are spending thousands of dollars a year on exercise. Most boutique fitness classes will run upward of $30 per class, so if you're going three times a week, that's more than $4,000 annually. If you're anything like me, that's a large percentage of your yearly income. And then, on top of the cost, you have to worry about fitting a class into your already packed schedule. Most of us have so much going on that it seems impossible to try to incorporate exercise into our lives with any regularity. But expensive fitness classes aren't the only way to get and stay fit, and you don't necessarily need to set aside two hours for exercise every day. You can always find clever ways to add exercise into your current routine. Can running errands be good for you? Of course, you just have to be creative.
Between the time and the money, getting and staying fit seems like a daunting task, which makes me personally want to get back into bed, drink Baileys, eat Candy corn, and bemoan the fact that I'm too poor and busy to be fit, and I don't think I'm alone. “For most people that I talk to, incorporating exercise is a total lifestyle change, which can be really hard,” explains Amy Hall, a nurse practitioner at the Valley Hospital Center for Metabolic Surgery and Weight Loss Management in Ridgewood, NJ. “Pretty much everyone says they don't have time to exercise, so I tell them to start out by doing five minutes of any heart rate elevating activity twice per week. Once they're able to make that a consistent part of their lifestyle, they can start scaling up from there.”
A lot of us aren't quite ready for a 90-minute hot yoga class, but that doesn't mean that we can't implement small changes every day that can help us work up to to sweating for 60 minutes straight. Maybe if we stop looking at things like grocery shopping and helping friends move as inconvenient, and instead look at them as a way to help offset sitting at a desk for eight hours, we can cut down the amount of time and money we spend on classes where the instructors judge you for what you're wearing.*
Grocery Shop 'Til You Drop
Grocery delivery services like Peapod and Amazon Fresh are perfect for those of us that don't have time to do to the supermarket, which is nice, but here is where the double-edged sword of modern life comes into play: Grocery delivery services are causing us to spend less and less time moving and using our muscles, so we have to spend lots of time and money going to the gym and taking classes to stay healthy. So yeah, getting your groceries delivered is super convenient and makes you feel like a baller, but you can cut your time at the gym way down by just going and getting those frozen pizzas yourself.
Even better, don't even buy frozen pizzas! Buy heavy stuff! There are so many heavy and healthy foods to choose from, so when you buy pineapples, olive oil, aloe juice, and cans of garbanzo beans, not only are you using your muscles to carry all that stuff around, you're stocking your shelves with healthy treats! It's a win-win!
So do arm curls with your can of beans and squat with your 30-pack of water bottles. Walk your groceries home and throw in the occasional lunge. It's the little things that count.
As Doctor of Physical Therapy Laura Mannering (who is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Certified in MDT) confirms, these smaller exercises start adding up to something more, "Start with a manageable target. One push-up will be two in a few days, five minutes of walking will turn into 10 soon, and three flights of stairs will double before you know it. And these numbers, with training, will continue to go up."
U-Haul Your Butt Up Those Stairs
How many friendships have gone on the skids because one friend asked another friend to help them move and the friend said no or possible offered money in lieu of physical assistance? (Probably none, but I'm still always really scared to bail on packing boxes.) Nobody wants to help their friends move, and yet they'll wake up at insane hours in the morning and go to CrossFit to do upside down push-ups and flip over giant truck tires.
Helping someone move is a helluva a lot cheaper than Barry's Boot Camp and now the friend that you helped move can't bail on your birthday party without feeling insanely guilty! Knowing someone feels guilty is almost better than having them there, so it's yet ANOTHER win-win.
When you imagine the boxes as weights, climbing the stairs becomes better than any gym workout. You can squat with the boxes or lift them over your heads to do reps. Take advantage of an open floor with no furniture.
If this all sounds intimidating, Dr. Mannering has some advice, "As with most things in life, there is a learning curve. If you've never jogged before, it can feel like torture. With practice, if can eventually feel effortless - and you'll wonder how it ever felt difficult. I doubt a first yoga class has ever felt easy for someone. (The same holds when changing forms of exercise. Just because you can run 15 miles doesn't mean you can swim long distances, for example.)"
Pee All You Can Pee
If you have an office job, it can be really tough to get up and move around, and we've all heard that sitting is the new smoking, so trying to find little ways to incorporate movement and weight bearing exercise can help combat the negative effects of sedentary life. One trick is to drink a ton of water. Obviously water is good for you because it helps your organs function more effectively, but if you have to pee all the time, you're also getting up and walking to the bathroom all the time – and those steps add up.
Now, fill two shopping bags with bricks, and keep them on either side of your desk chair. When you get up to go to the bathroom grab the bags of bricks, and carry them with you to the bathroom, doing alternate leg lunges the entire way back and forth from the loo. I'm just kidding, don't do this. It's really insane. Unless you work at a hot new startup company, then it's probably par for the course.
You don't need bricks to make this extra movement count. Clear your mind with a couple of extra steps around the office; take a walk a few blocks further than your normally would for lunch; skip the transfer train or park your car a little out of the way. There are innumerable health benefits to walking, and that journey can begin with a single step to the bathroom.
I'm not trying to say that walking to get groceries or peeing a dozen times a day will make you Serena Williams. Hall adds “In order to see any real fitness change, you should be trying to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes four to five times per week, but for most people, getting to that point is the real challenge.”
It's a tricky catch-22 that in order to work out effectively you need to have already achieved a level of fitness, and it's really hard to know where to start, but just implementing some small lifestyle changes, like walking to get groceries and not shying away from carrying some boxes a couple of flights, can really help you get in a position, both mentally and physically, to work yourself harder and harder every day.
If you look at shopping and moving as practice for CrossFit, it can really help you over that first hurdle of getting healthy and fit. And, if you can manage to burn a bunch of calories by just going through your normal day, maybe you can cut out a day of exercise and save yourself a bunch of cash at the end of the year, which you can then spend on the Baileys and Candy corn you're going to consume from bed on your well-deserved cheat day.
*I don't know if this is actually true, but as a highly-paranoid person, I suspect it.
Welcome to No Sweat: an exhausted girl's guide to squeezing in fitness. This content package is for the woman who wants to find an exercise routine that doesn't feel like a chore. No Sweat isn't changing the shape of your body; it's about feeling stronger, happier, and more energetic. Because working out doesn't mean you have to break a sweat.