Physical Exercise | Establishing a Routine through Integration instead of Separation

Published: Jun 7, 2024 | Revised: Jun 9, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

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Some people can more or less easily bring up the self-discipline to start doing physical exercise regularly and develop a routine, but others (like me, for instance) don’t have the necessary self-discipline and subsequently don’t manage such an approach successfully.

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Nonetheless, I discovered that by integrating physical exercise in my life it became much easier to regularly have my healthy dose of physical activity. What I mean with integration is that instead of making physical exercise a separate thing you try to “squeeze into your busy life,” it may work better to make it something that fits more naturally in your set of daily activities.

The most obvious thing would be to change your job and start doing work that includes physical activity. For instance, what happened to me is that I quit my sedentary IT job and became a Thai Massage and Thai Yoga therapist. That made it quite easy to have enough exercise because it became part of my professional work to move and exert myself physically.

But that’s the way things went for me, which was rather due to my circumstances and initially certainly not a deliberate choice of mine. However, for most people intentionally changing their job or career for this purpose is not at all a viable option.

Luckily, there are several other ways to manage integrating physical activity in your daily life and incrementally increase exercise time towards achieving the recommended levels for optimal health.

For instance, you can look for ways to diminish your sitting time when commuting to your work. That is, you could get out of the bus or metro one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the trajectory to your work, or park your car farther away and take a ten minutes’ walk to the office, or if possible — bike to your work instead of taking the bus or car.

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I realize that the above would mean that you’ll need to get up earlier in the morning, but that is easier when you accept that as being part of your commuting activity (which will just take a bit longer). It’s often harder to find the self-discipline to getting up earlier just to first do half an hour of physical exercise.

Then, quite some companies may offer (or are willing to offer) means for physical exercise at the workplace. Think of chair massage offerings or the option to use a gym at the office. Of course, it would mean that you need to spend more time at your work to make up for the “lost time,” but as you’re already there it makes it relatively easy to integrate exercise in your schedule.

If you have a sedentary job (and to me this includes people who have jobs during which they need to stand the whole day, such as shop attendants) you can try to take regular breaks from your static position (perhaps every thirty minutes or so), that is, change your posture, get up (or alternatively sit down, for people who stand all the time), do some stretches for the chest, back, shoulders, neck, arms and legs, knee-bends (squatting), back-bends, and/or a warming-up sequence just to loosen up your muscles and joints and get your blood circulation going.

And if you work in a building that has an elevator, well, get out a few levels earlier and continue by climbing the stairs to your office. Think also about your lunch break in which you might be able to venture outdoors and take a short walk and do some stretching exercises.

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As for your home environment, perhaps it’s possible to walk to the supermarket and carry your groceries back home, instead of conveniently using the car.

Personally, I also integrate physical exercise in ordinary day-to-day home activities, such as when I cook, take a shower, or brush my teeth. But let me explain this.

For instance, when I brush my teeth I don’t stay in the bathroom but go to the kitchen and use the kitchen table to stretch my hamstrings (back thigh muscles). That is, while brushing my upper teeth I place my left leg on the table and stretch the left hamstrings, and while brushing my lower teeth I change the leg and stretch the hamstrings of the right leg.

When I cook I do all kind of exercises. For instance, I try to take the things I need for cooking (utensils, food, spices, and whatnot) by squatting instead of bending over (squatting saves the back, opens the groin, strengthens the front thighs, legs, and buttocks, and relaxes the pelvic floor). In fact, in a more general sense I always try to squat whenever that can replace bending over.

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In addition, there’s often quite some slack time while you cook, and hence you can do other things. Think of stretching the quadriceps (standing on one leg while you take the other leg by the foot and bring it to your buttocks), opening the chest by bringing your arms to the back, slow and deep abdominal breathing to release physical tension, anxiety and stress, rotating and stretching the neck, torso stretches, squats, swinging the arms, and whatnot.

In your bed, before going to sleep, you can also do quite a few exercises. Think of the Child’s Pose (in Yoga called Balasana) to relax the back and pelvic floor (the latter especially if you place the knees farther apart), or you can lie on your back and do some “bicycling,” and so on. Just check out Yoga poses and exercises on the Internet and pick those that suit you and can be done easily in your bed.

The above are just examples of how I integrate exercises into my daily routines, but what I want to say is that I have noticed that we insufficiently seize the opportunity of the “dead moments” to do “something physical” with our body. I think that there’s a lot to win there and that there are so many moments of the day during which we can exercise our body instead of just sitting, standing, or waiting, even if it’s just a few minutes at a time.

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