11 Easy Ways To Improve Your Fitness, Without Even Trying

11 Easy Ways To Improve Your Fitness, Without Even Trying

Whether it’s time or inclination you’re lacking, there are plenty of low-effort ways to boost your fitness and improve your health without having to join a gym. Here’s what you need to know…
By Georgia Day

Building good habits outside of the gym is easier than you might think. To start making changes, focus on establishing one habit at a time that won’t disrupt your current schedule. 

“One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behaviour on top,” says Wes Santos, founder of Instate Fitness. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is a great place to start and is categorised as any activity that isn’t considered formal exercise. You might not realise how many daily activities fall under this umbrella, and it might surprise you to know how important the concept is to overall health. 

As well as burning hundreds or even thousands of calories a day, small bursts of low-impact movement can help with muscle recovery, cardiovascular health, blood sugar control, and stress and inflammation reduction. “You may hear PTs say you need to increase your NEAT,” says Wes. “This is because NEAT plays a significant role in overall energy expenditure along with the thermic effect of food, exercise and your individual BMR.”

Because NEAT tends to be low impact, it’s ideal for those coming back from injury. “The concept of 'exercise snacking’ can put people in the right mindset to move more,” adds Luiz Silva, head of fitness and wellbeing and a personal trainer at Castle Royle. “The possibilities are endless – you just need to find something that suits your lifestyle. It’s important to be creative, as your body will need to be taken outside of its comfort zone to be able to adapt and get results.” 

While the tips that follow can help improve everything from your mood, focus, energy and fitness levels, the best news is that they’re all easy to incorporate into your existing daily routine without much effort. In other words, it’s (virtually) no pain and all gain.


Feel Free To Fidget

According to numerous studies, fidgeting can be an effective way of burning hundreds of calories without even realising it. What form your fidgeting takes is up to you but constant motion – whether it’s jiggling your knees, fiddling with a pen or tapping your foot – can burn up to ten times more calories than simply sitting still. 


Stand Up & Stretch

If even moving more feels a stretch too far, simply standing up more frequently can improve your fitness. Standing helps engage postural muscles engage, which reduce the risk of neck and back pain, but it can also improve balance, posture and overall strength. Activating these muscles, even by a miniscule amount, also burns calories that, when done frequently, add up over time. Studies have even shown that slumping and sitting badly can decrease lung capacity – so sit up straight for a fast fix.


Cut Your Commute

If you live in an urban environment, getting off the tube, train or bus one or two stops early can make a big difference. In addition to increasing your daily step count, pounding the pavements in cities can contribute to your stamina and overall fitness. As one study in the Czech Republic found, walking in built-up areas results in a faster pace and therefore a more demanding workout, helping you get healthier and fitter faster.


Do A Lunchtime Lunge

Try incorporating some gentle movement into your lunch window. Eat while standing up to encourage extra energy expenditure or use the time you’re waiting for your food to heat up (or for the office microwave to become free) wisely by adding in some squat or lunge reps.


Go Shopping

Next time you’re faced with a hefty load of shopping to carry, embrace it instead of bemoaning it. The everyday equivalent of a ‘farmer’s carry’, walking with a heavy bag in each hand is a fantastic strength and conditioning exercise than can burn over a hundred calories and give your major muscle groups a good workout. To avoid injuring yourself, keep the weight of each bag as evenly balanced as you can and ensure you keep your back straight, your shoulders back, and your head and chest up. Bonus points for bicep curls while you’re at it.


Walk To Talk

Every time you take a phone call during the day, make a pledge to walk and talk. As well as adding extra steps to your daily total, which can significantly reduce your risk of all-causes mortality, moving more regularly improves everything from mobility and lung health to immune health, mood and focus.


Head Downstairs

The benefits of walking upstairs are well documented, but walking down them also has plenty. Instead of compressing your muscles, which walking upstairs can do, walking downstairs elongates the muscles in your lower body, improves balance and coordination, and gives your joints (especially knees and ankles) a good, conditioning workout.


Up Your Vitamin D Intake

We all know the benefits of vitamin D for your skin, but this recent study found that those with a higher intake had far better lung function, too. In winter, up your consumption by eating plenty of red meat, cheese and oily fish such as salmon and tuna. In the summer, you can get a good source of vitamin D from the sun – making the great outdoors an even better place to get fit and build up your breathing tolerance levels.


Improve Your Air Quality

If you live in a city like London, air pollution is unavoidable. While that might not be within your immediate control, there are things you can do within your immediate vicinity to ensure your lungs stay in tip-top condition. The British Lung Foundation advise that you keep your house as clean as possible, dusting regularly, and keeping plenty of house plants for oxygenated air. Also, open your windows for at least ten minutes a day, especially if you’re cooking or showering, and keep an eye out for condensation, as damp air can wreak havoc on your lungs.


Try Some Deep Breathing

The Lung Institute say breathing exercises are a great way to increase your lung capacity. Here are the ones you should try:

Pushing out: With your feet flat on the ground and an upright posture, keep your knees relaxed and bend over from the waist. Push the air out of your lungs, then slowly return to an upright position. Inhale slowly and allow your lungs to comfortably fill with as much air as possible. Hold your breath for 20 seconds, or a time that you can manage. While counting, lift your arms over your head. Relax and then lower your arms as you exhale slowly. Complete this cycle four times.

Rib stretch: Stand upright and exhale all the air from your lungs. Slowly breathe in, and expand your lungs to the maximum capacity. Hold the air for about 20 seconds or what is comfortable for you. While counting, place both hands on your hips with your thumbs facing front with pinkies touching the small of your back. Exhale the air slowly, relax and repeat three more times.

Abdominal breathing: Lie in a comfortable position on your back, and rest one hand on top of your abdomen. Rest the other hand on your chest. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your mid-section. The hand on your stomach will rise higher than the one on your chest. Exhale slowly from the mouth and inhale slowly from the nose, holding your breath for seven seconds if possible. Then, when you exhale, breathe out for eight seconds. Make sure to squeeze your abdominal muscles near the end, so you exhale all the air. Breathe this way for five cycles. 


Finally, Start Singing

Not the most natural thing to all of us, but if you can brave belting out a tune in the shower, this could significantly improve your lung capacity and controlled breathing. According to a study conducted on 20 students, the lung capacities of those that were part of a choir were far higher than those that didn’t sing at all. Plus, the British Lung Foundation found that singing was particularly helpful for patients with respiratory diseases, to help them control their symptoms.

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