You did the hard part: you put in all that effort and you got your body in shape. Congratulations! We’re so proud of you. Now for the harder part (yes, there’s a harder part): staying in shape while time constraints or other life factors keep you from maintaining your old activity level. Get started with Step 1 below to find out how to eat for your lower activity level, and fit easier exercises into the time that you do have, keeping your body in as good condition as possible while you enjoy everything else life has to offer.
Being Active Every Day
Walk more. Just walking alone is a very beneficial exercise which can help you stay in shape, feel more energetic, and get healthy. Not all exercise has to include painful muscles and lots of sweat! Walking is easy to fit into your basic daily activities too, making it one of the easiest solutions for staying in shape.
The easiest way to get more walking in is to park further away from wherever you’re trying to go. Park at the back of the parking lot in the mall, grocery store, or your workplace. You can even go further and park a block or two away from even the furthest reaches of the parking lot. The next easiest way to fit in more walking is to make sure that you’re always taking the stairs. Skip the elevator and escalator in favor of the stairs when you can.
A slightly more challenging but still very doable way to get more activity into your day is to start taking public transit. Not only will this save you a lot of gas money, but it usually involves at least slightly more walking than your normal commute. Google Maps has an excellent public transit planner (just select the bus icon when planning a route) which will help you figure out when to leave, what routes to take, and how much you’ll get to walk.
Change your desk set-up. Standing while you work can help your body get more activity than if you were just sitting down. Spend at least some of your work day standing instead of sitting in order to help your blood flow and maintain your muscles.
If you’re not sure what your boss would think about this change, just be strategic in how you introduce the idea: “If you help us make these changes, it will keep us healthier and happier, which means that you have to spend less money in the long run on healthcare costs for us.”
There are many desks available which you can purchase that switch between normal desk height and standing desk height. This will make it easy to take a break for sitting when the standing becomes too difficult for the task that you’re working on.
Use a ball chair. You might also want to change how you sit when you do need to be in a chair. Switching to an exercise ball instead of a regular chair will go a long way towards helping you to maintain your core muscles and also keep you more alert.
If you find a basic exercise ball to be too difficult to balance on, you can also get specialized anchored models. These still have some benefit, but not quite as much as the normal ball.
Have walk meetings. If you need to have a meeting at work and most of what you will be doing is simply talking and taking notes, consider getting your coworkers to join you in a walk around the halls or around the building, instead of just sitting in the meeting room. This will keep everyone more alert and also get you some activity which will help keep everyone energized. You can take notes into your phone or even audio-record the meeting, if you’re worried about forgetting some of the information you discussed.
Do more chores. Lots of household chores actually involve a lot of exercise and being better about doing chores can be a great way for you to fit activity and exercise into your day. Hoard the most exercise intensive chores for yourself and get your family doing everything else.
Exercise intensive chores include mowing grass using a push-mower, making the bed, doing the laundry, and scrubbing the bathtub.
Walk on your breaks. Instead of just sitting and staring at the wall when you’re on your work breaks, try taking a walk through the halls. This will help you stay alert, get re-energized, and also stay active.
Fitting Exercise into Your Schedule
Split up your exercises. You might not have the time or want to spend an hour a day at the gym any more, but you don’t have to in order to maintain your fitness level. All you need to do to start burning calories is maintain a higher heart rate for 10 minutes at a time. This means that you can exercise for that extra ten minutes that you have between coming home and starting to cook dinner, or between watching The Voice and going to bed. Aim to exercise for a total of 30 minutes per day and you’ll easily be able to maintain your fitness level.
Choose efficient exercises. Some exercises will be more efficient than others, and choosing these more efficient exercises means that the small amount of time that you do spend exercising will really count. Try to choose exercises that focus on your core muscles, since your legs and arms can get activity through daily activities like lifting bags of groceries and walking a longer distance from your car. Try:
Squats. Squats work on your core and leg muscles, and you can even add to the total body workout by adding weights so that your arms get work as well. This exercise is done by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and, keeping your back straight, bending your knees to lower your body as if you were sitting in a chair.
Planks. Planks are done by getting into something like a push-up position. However, instead of resting your upper body weight on your hands, rest your weight on your whole forearm instead and hold the position for as long as you can. The tension created between your arms and toes from trying to keep your body straight will be great for maintaining your core, leg, shoulder, neck, and upper arm muscles.
Burpees. Burpees are great because they exercise all areas of your body in just a few motions. This exercise is done by dropping from a standing position into a crouching position, thrusting your legs out backward into a push-up position (you can add an actual push-up if you want), jumping back into a crouching position, and then jumping up as high as you can (arms up).
Exercise in between daily activities. You can fit in lots of exercises in between your regular activities and while you are doing certain activities throughout your day. If you find places to fit in this exercise, it will be easy to stay in shape. Remember, just three sets of 10 minutes of activity spread through your day can be enough. By following this plan, you can easily fit 30-60 minutes of exercise into each day (not including extra walking or other activity that you might be able to fit into your day): Try doing squats while you cook dinner. Put a large can of tomato sauce in each hand and then do squats in front of your stove while your dinner cooks (or microwaves). The 10 minutes that spaghetti takes to cook, for example, is perfect for timing your exercise.
Do planks before getting into bed. Do 10 minutes of planks before you go to bed, 1 minute of plank, 30 seconds of rest, and repeat for 10-15 minutes total. You can also do this when you first wake up but doing some gentle movements first to warm up your muscles will be crucial for preventing injury.
Do burpees during commercial breaks. Commercial breaks on American television now average between 13-16 minutes total per hour, giving you plenty of time to fit in some burpees. If you extend your activity to slight into the program itself, you should be able to fit in one or two 10 minute sets into your hour of television watching.
Turn your commute into exercise. Your commute can also be exercise, if you do it right. Forego your car in favor of alternative transportation forms. There are lots of different arrangements that you can try, depending on how much extra time you can find, how much exercise you want, and any other factors that you care about. Consider:
Riding your bike. Ride your bike to and from work. This works particularly well if you live away and have access to bathroom facilities where you can get cleaned up after you arrive. Bring your work clothes in a backpack along with anything you need to fix up your hair and face.
Combine a bike and bus. You can also combine riding a bike with a bit of riding public transit as well. Most buses have a bike rack at the front, which means you can ride the bus to work with your bike and then ride your bike home. You can also switch which goes first, or even ride the bus part way and then the bike the rest of the way.
If you live away and have access to bathroom facilities, you might want to consider running or jogging to work. This is great exercise and will wake you up way more than a cup of coffee.
Exercise with your kids. If you have children, think about exercising with your children. Overlapping time you spend playing with your kids with time you spend taking care of your bodies can be the smart move needed to make sure you have time to do both. Besides, it sets a good example for your kids, helping them to see how important it is to fit exercise into your life. For example, you can take your kids to swim with you at the local pool a few times a week. Rock climbing is another activity that’s good for kids.
Make exercise a social activity. You can also make exercising your social activity, if you don’t have kids but still struggle to find time. Put together a group with your friends and you can all take a cheap Pilates class once a week. This keeps you motivated, by giving you something to look forward to and people to be accountable to, but it also helps you find more time in your schedule by multitasking.
Multi-task at the gym. You can also find more time by continuing your gym routine but spending the time that you are there multitasking. Take your activity with you and then get on a low-impact machine, like an elliptical, or a treadmill with a spot to put a book or papers.
Bring homework with you if you’re in school, reports that you need to read for work, paperwork that needs only basic things like signatures and initials…whatever you can do with minimal movement on your part.
Bring an audiobook or podcast on your iPod and listen while you work out. This is another way to make your time count, fitting in relaxation while you exercise.
Make the lifestyle change. We tend to get caught up in the popular mentality that diets (like Atkins or South Beach) are the way to keep those pounds off, but a diet is not going to work long term. Diets can help you shed a few emergency pounds in a pinch, but what really makes a difference in the long run is proper lifestyle change. You can get by with minimal exercise if you eat healthy, properly proportioned meals. This will keep you energetic and it will also keep fat from building up and making it harder to be physical and stay in shape.
Cut out unhealthy fats. Not all fats are bad for you. In fact, you body needs certain fats to function. Cut unhealthy fats, saturated and trans fats, from your diet to keep your blood flowing and your body lean. The easiest way to identify unhealthy fats is to look for “solid” fats, or fats that are solid at room temperature. This is usually a sign of saturated or trans fats. You can find saturated and trans “solid” fats in foods like butter, cheese, coconut oil, vegetable shortening, red meats, chicken skin, and commercially baked products (cookies, pizza, donuts, cakes, etc).
Add in healthy fats. Healthy fats are vital for keeping your body healthy and maintaining your most important muscle: your heart! Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can usually be identified by the fact that they are liquid at room temperature.
You can find healthy fats in nuts, olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon and anchovies.
Get plenty of protein. Protein will help you maintain your muscles and also give you the energetic feeling that you may be missing now that you’re getting less exercise. When choosing a protein source, you want to look for lean proteins (proteins with minimal amounts of unhealthy fats) but you also want to look for complete proteins. Protein isn’t just one nutrient: it is often found in many different pieces in food, so you need to get enough of all of the different pieces in order for the protein to do its job in your body.
Good protein sources include skinless chicken, turkey, salmon, anchovies, sardines, oysters, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, peas, and quinoa.
Things like nuts, beans, and rice only have parts of protein and not a protein that’s already put together. Usually, you’ll need to eat meat in order to get a protein that is ready to go but you can also eat soy products (soy is one of the few non-meat source of a complete protein; others are quinoa, buckwheat, and chia seed). If you’re a vegetarian, make sure that you’re eating more things like beans and nuts and that you’re getting a wide variety of different types of those protein sources, to help your body get all the pieces of protein that it needs to build a complete protein – for instance, beans with rice or beans with corn are a complete protein.
Maximize your other nutrients. You’ll need to eat fewer calories now, as compared to when you were more active, if you don’t want to start building up body fat. This means that the calories you do eat should be as packed with nutrients as you can possibly get them. Look for foods that have low calorie counts and fat but high portions of nutrients.
Nutrient packed foods include kale, spinach, broccoli, citrus fruit, apples, quinoa, oatmeal, barley, lentils, white beans, and fish.
Eat properly portioned, balanced meals. While you were getting in shape, you probably ate larger meals that were probably heavy on the protein. While you’ll still want to get plenty of protein, you’ll really want to balance that intake with other nutrient sources now. You’ll also want to eat smaller meals, to help you make sure that you’re getting the right amount of calories for your new activity level.
Generally, about ⅓ of your plate should be fruits and vegetables (leaning more heavily to the side of the vegetables, since fruit contains a lot of sugar) and ⅓ of your plate should be grains. The final third should be a mix of protein and low-fat dairy (cottage cheese, eggs, non-fat milk, etc).
For getting the right amount of food, you’ll probably need to do some math and tailor your diet to the number of calories your doctor recommends. However, an easy rule of thumb is to eat from a salad plate (or side plate) instead of a dinner plate and to wait at least 15 minutes before taking any more food.
Drink water. And of course, your body needs water. While you might not need as much water as when you were doing all that sweating to get into shape, you still definitely need water so don’t lose that vigilance. Drinking enough water also has the added bonus of keeping your hunger level down, helping you to maintain the lower calorie count that you’ll be getting now that you’re not exercising as much.
The usual rule of thumb is that when your urine comes out pale, you’re probably drinking enough water.
If you are really having trouble sticking to your plan, try incorporating exercise with things you like. For example, if you like watching TV, do a set of crunches or push ups each commercial or something similar.
Getting started exercising can be difficult and frustrating. Try to stay calm and don’t have overly high expectations.
If you have a busy lifestyle and have trouble finding time to exercise, do small things daily to become more active. For example, try to walk or bike short distances to places you would normally drive to (this is also better for the environment as well as your health.)
Don’t feel like you need to do a million push-ups every day.
Don’t give up. It’s slow process and is not easy. That’s why there are so many books and videos – everyone is trying to do it, but not many accomplish this goal.
Another way to stick to your plan is making an appointment with yourself for an exercise session. It is a bad plan to exercise whenever you feel like it. – You are more likely to not actually do exercise on a regular basis. (And a regular schedule is key.)
Jogging helps , but try some other sports too! Jogging mostly strengthens the muscles in your legs, and if you’re untrained or don’t have comfortable jogging shoes, it can actually damage your legs. Try swimming, since your whole body is working when you swim! You can go to the pool every morning before school/work and swim 500 meters (or more if you’re fit enough to do it) or even take lessons (three times a week is good).
Only eat junk food once in a while. If you like going to McDonald’s or KFC or whatever, try to not go there more than 2 or 3 times a month. Don’t get addicted to fast food! It’s fine to have it once in a while, but limit it!
Also, playing basketball is probably one of the best ways to stay in shape build your endurance level. It can be more than just a way to stay in shape, it might also become something others will really like about you.
If you find it difficult to go without junk food, that’s okay. Eat it once and a while, and keep your diet in balance.
Beware of McDonald’s! If you have to eat there, eat the kid’s meal (you can even play with the toy thus losing even more calories if you are enthusiastic enough about it) and beware of the salads, because they might seem healthy, but there are sometimes extras that can add up to about the same amount of calories on a Big Mac.
Watch for fattening foods, especially foods with trans fat or a lot of saturated fat. Stick to turkey, chicken, and seafood as your main meat sources. Have red meat (beef) every once in a while, but not too much because it has a lot of saturated fat. Go easy on pork too because it has a lot of sodium, just as some chicken does.
If you start to feel light headed, dizzy, or really sick, then this means you are pushing yourself too hard!! For most healthy people, this is a positive thing to work through (as muscle fatigue ultimately allows your muscle to rebuild itself over the subsequent days – only bigger than before!). However, always consult your physician before starting an exercise regimen, if you have any chronic conditions or you are taking any medication on a regular basis. While some people advocate pushing through and continuing to work out even through pain, this is your body’s signal that something is not right. A little discomfort can be good in a healthy person, but you should stop immediately if the pain is anything more than minor discomfort, as continuing in such a situation can seriously jeopardize your health. See your physician first, and afterwards you can cause yourself pain as much as you want! Be careful, and don’t overdo it!
If you feel dizzy or very unpleasant, stop, rest and get a drink of water. Do not overexert yourself.
You can have serious muscle damage if you take on too much in the beginning before you have built yourself up.
How to Stay Fit Without Exercise
How to Start Your Own Exercise Regimen and Stick to It
How to Start Walking for Exercise
How to Exercise Your Eyes
How to Exercise While Sitting at Your Computer
How to Prepare for a Marathon (Intermediate)
How to Tone the Butt With Walking
How to Train Your Body
How to Enjoy Jogging
Sources and Citations
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