How to stay fit and active indoors

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Did you know that leading a sedentary lifestyle puts you at 112% higher risk of developing diabetes and 147% higher risk of developing heart disease*? In fact, those who are often inactive have a 22-49% higher risk of early death*.

You are at risk if you walk less than 1,500 steps a day and sit for more than 12 hours a day. This might describe people who work from home, stay at home moms and dads, or newcomers who are adjusting to winter.

With busy schedules and the cold weather, it can be hard to stay active. But with a little planning and commitment, you can infuse simple activities into your day even while indoors. Coupled with good nutrition, proper hydration and enough sleep, you can stay fit and healthy this season.

How much activity do we need?

Adults, including seniors should have at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. This can include a variety of aerobic activities of various intensity levels. The good news is that, based on the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, even rituals of daily living like household chores, gardening, or taking the stairs can be counted towards a healthy 24 hours.

If you belong to the groups mentioned above, or if you just don’t have time to walk or exercise, there are simple things you can do to mitigate the negative effects of inaction.

Healthy 24 hours poster

How to stay healthy while staying indoors

Important: If you have health issues, make sure to check with your doctor first before taking on any new diet or exercise regimen, especially if you intend to take on vigorous activities.

  1. Indoor power walking

    Heard of the 10,000-step challenge? This can be a great daily target for you! It’s doable when you make it a part of everyday activities. You can designate a walking path in your house that you can go around several times a day (you can also pick up stuff and put them away as you go), go up and down the stairs, or keep walking while answering the phone or listening to a podcast. If you have time to go out, you can take your kids to walk around the mall. It will help to have a pedometer or fitness tracker. This can be a watch like Fitbit, or simply download a free app to your phone like SpeedApp if you have an iPhone, or Pedometer for android.

  2. Do “exercise snacks”

    These are 20-second activities you can do every one to four hours to break inactivity. You can jog in place, climb the stairs, do jumping jacks, burpees, or even have a dance break. It’s a great way to build activity into your work day. You can set alarms on your phone to remind you throughout the day. Exercise snacks have been shown to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. They can also provide energy boosts that improve your productivity.

  3. Transform your screen time into active time

    If the way you de-stress is to binge-watch shows, make it into a more active pastime by walking in place or standing up for one to five minutes every one to two hours. You can also use your treadmill or stationary bike while watching. It will help to use a headset so you can move freely.

  4. Get a standing desk

    Those who are working from home can greatly benefit from using standing desks. Personally, using a standing desk has greatly decreased my back pain and leg cramps. Aside from lessening sitting time, it’s also easier to do quick leg curls, stretches, and other exercise snacks while standing. If you’d like to have more exercise options, put a treadmill or a pedal exerciser under your standing desk.

  5. Meditate

    I know this doesn’t look active, but it’s like a workout for your mental health. All you need is 10 minutes of quiet time. You can do it upon waking up or at the end of the day. The important thing is to do it consistently because you are more likely to stick to it than when you do it twice or thrice a week. Meditation has been found to reduce stress, improve focus, prevent memory loss, and increase self-awareness. An easy way to start is to use a YouTube video as a guide. Here’s a great example:

    10-Minute Meditation for Beginners, Goodful

Have a healthy 2024!
Sources: *Health stats from Annals of Internal Medicine: Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults; and National Library of Medicine: Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis; How to get 10,000 steps a day at home and outside, Humairah Irfan, Muslim Moms; Unique ways to stay fit indoors, DIY Active; Top 5 negative side effects of a sedentary lifestyle, Dr. Satish Vayuvegula; and Snack your way to better health with bite-sized breaks, Scott Lear, The Conversation. Accessed December 15, 2022.

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Community Resources

For more tips on nutrition and physical activity by age, go to Canada’s Food Guide (Physical activity and healthy eating) and Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.

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