Staying Fit While Sitting

Most Americans, including those with desk jobs, don’t get enough exercise throughout the day. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAGA) advises adults to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise), many adults’ activity levels fall into the sedentary category, meaning they get fewer than 5,000 steps per day.

The good news is driving for hours each day doesn’t have to mean fitness has to take a back seat to financial freedom. Here are four simple steps to ensure driving doesn’t impact your ability to lead a healthy and active lifestyle—and a few helpful ideas to sneak extra activity into your days:

1. Track Steps

Living in a tech-savvy world, we’ve become familiar with the power of apps to capture and share information in simple, beautiful ways. Apple Health and Google Fit are free apps that come pre-installed on Apple and Android devices, respectively, that make it easy to keep up with your daily activity. If you want to kick it up a notch, invest in a wearable tracker that automatically tracks your movement (many monitor exercise, sleep, heart rate and more). Although 10,000 steps a day (about 4.5 miles) is the American Heart Association’s recommendation for adults, if your daily average is less than 5,000 steps, try to increase your daily average by 1,000 steps each week until you reach 10,000.

2. Schedule Quick Exercise Breaks

The great news about physical activity is that it doesn’t all have to come at the same time to provide great benefits. The PAGA states that some physical activity is better than none, and that adults who participate in any amount of physical activity will see health benefits. Even simple exercises, like jumping jacks, squats or push-ups, will increase your metabolism when performed for at least ten minutes at a time. To incorporate exercise more seamlessly, try to take a short workout break after every seventh trip, or sneak in a ten-minute walk or jog every time you stop at a gas station.

3. Become a Park Pro

Variety is key in any exercise program, and no place provides more options for mixing it up than a park. Download the free Oh, Ranger! Park Finder app and you’ll never have trouble finding a park nearby. The app makes it simple to find parks of all sizes (from neighborhood favorites to national parks) and filter by more than 20 activity types including walking, water sports, golfing, bicycling and more. With so many great options, it’s easy to incorporate physical activity into your day—especially if you make it a rule to swing by a park before your first or after your last rider of the day.

4. Snack Happy

Even the most active people will have their workout results sabotaged if they’re eating the wrong foods. When you’re in your car for several hours at a time, it can be tempting to depend on fast food restaurant drive-throughs for meals. Unfortunately, many of the most popular chains offer unhealthy choices with empty calories. Too much sugar can spike your blood sugar, leading to an eventual crash. Plus, calories from sugar that aren’t quickly burned (by a workout, for example) can be stored as fat. To avoid tempting treats on the go, pack healthy snacks that are easy to store and access. Great options include almonds, grapes, fruit slices (think oranges or apples), and protein bars. And because home-cooked meals are almost always less processed than their fast-food counterparts (meaning less sodium and other preservatives), consider packing leftovers or a sandwich if you plan to drive for more than five hours at a time.

You’ll likely own a few cars over the course of your lifetime, but you only get one body. Be sure to give it the fuel it needs and be careful not to stay idle for too long.

Photo credit: Phil Roeder


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