Most people tend to make work as an excuse to exercise.

Are you too busy to exercise?

If you asked a room full of people their main excuse for giving exercise the short shrift, I’ll bet the answer would be time … not enough of it, that is.

It’s no wonder. In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to let our bloated must-do lists take precedence over our want-to-dos.

So exercise falls by the wayside.

I, a father of 4 with a full-time job, am as guilty as the next guy.

Though I’m loathe to admit it, I am guilty of using my hectic schedule to edge out exercise.

New research may challenge your assumptions

But I just read some new research with some surprising findings: A long, strenuous workout isn’t necessarily the best way to address 2 of the biggest benefits of exercise: keeping blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check. This is especially true for those of us who spend the bulk of the day sitting down.

In a study published in the journal PLoS One, researchers asked participants to follow 3 exercise regimes for 4 days each.

Group #1: Be sedentary all day.

Group #2: Do vigorous exercise for 1 hour and then stay mostly seated for the rest of the day.

Group #3: Walk or stand for several hours and spend little time sitting around.

Between each of these, participants were asked to go back to their regular routine for 10 days.1

To no one’s surprise, the sedentary group fared the worst.

But while groups 2 and 3 expended similar numbers of calories throughout the day, group 3 had significantly lower blood cholesterol and insulin levels, not to mention better insulin function.

In the long run, that can help reduce the risk of developing ailments such as diabetes or heart disease.

Move throughout the day

What I take from this study is that “working out” is not the be all and end all. What’s key is to move throughout the day. Sneak in exercise whenever you can.

To that end, I’ve collected a list of things you can do throughout the day to keep strong and flexible and to keep burning calories.

When the alarm rings: Do some gentle stretches.

  • Lying on your back, bring your knees into your chest to gently stretch your lower back, holding the back of your thighs for support.
  • Bend 1 knee and put the sole of that foot on the mattress. Then extend the other leg straight up, holding on to the back of the thigh to stretch your hamstrings.
  • Drop both knees together to one side and reach your arms to the opposite side, then reverse to stretch the spine.
  • Reach your arms in both directions as long as you can to lengthen your spine.

While making the bed: Crank up some cheery (or even cheesy) music and have at it! Exaggerate all your movements. Do a few extra squats when you tuck in the sheets, bending from the hips and knees, not the back. (The motion is almost like you’re sitting in a chair, making sure your knees never go farther forward than your toes.)

While waiting for your coffee to brew: Do push-ups against the wall or countertop.

  • Stand at arm’s length from the wall or counter, then place your hands flat on the wall or on the edge of the counter about shoulder-width apart.
  • Stand up straight, keep your feet on the floor and your abs tucked in tight, then lower yourself into a push-up against the wall or edge of the countertop.
  • Keep it slow to create more resistance.

Before you leave for work: Take Fido for an extra lap around the block. Your heart will thank you, and so will Fido.

When you get to your office: Skip the elevator and take the stairs. If you work on the 37th floor, take the elevator to floor 31 and climb the remaining 6 flights.

At your desk: Keep a set of hand weights at your desk and set a timer to go off every hour. When the timer beeps, take a lap around the office, then sit back down and do some biceps curls, triceps kickbacks or shoulder presses.

After lunch: Take a stroll around the block with a co-worker.

Keeping away from power tools and doing things manually will give you extra exercise.

After work: Do some yard work. But don’t rely on the power tools. Use a hand mower, rake the leaves instead of using a leaf blower, or water the lawn with a hand-held hose, so you have to walk the perimeter of your yard.

While you’re grocery shopping: Ditch the shopping cart and choose a basket instead. You’ll be forced to use your arm strength, as well as engage your core and legs. You’ve got too much loot? Pay for your items, put them in the car, then come back in for another round.

Before bed: Do a little yoga. Child’s Pose can help relieve tension and calm your mind to help you fall asleep faster.

  • Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
  • Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis while lifting the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
  • Put your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up.
  • Stay this way, anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

Of course, I recommend that you consult with your personal physician before beginning any exercise program — whether it’s an intense “workout” or busting a move while making the bed.

Speaking of making the bed … That suggestion is my favorite. I tried it this morning and scored some extra points with my wife, Melanie. What is your favorite?

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

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1. Duvivier BM, Schaper NC, Bremers MA, et al. Minimal intensity physical activity (standing and walking) of longer duration improves insulin action and plasma lipids more than shorter periods of moderate to vigorous exercise (cycling) in sedentary subjects when energy expenditure is comparable. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55542. PMID: 23418444.

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  1. Dear Dr. Sisskind
    I’m an administrator working in Ghana aged 42 year’s. My work demand that I sit a lot writing and working with the computer. I am 5.6 feet tall and my weight is revolving between 85-90 kg.
    I, know for healthy living my weight should be below 84 kg to have a balanced Body Mass Index.
    I am optimistic the information I have read on how to reduce your weight will be helpful.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Lucy,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing! I do hope you find the article above helpful in finding ways to exercise when you have too little or no time to. I also encourage you to read through my other blog posts and never hesitate to write us back if you have any questions or concerns. A few tips to help get you started, cut back on white carbs ( rice, bread or pasta) and opt for whole grains or colored rice. Concentrate on densely fibrous vegetables such as your leafy greens and get a good amount of protein ( lean animal cuts) into your diet regularly. Yes to fish and nuts and only a handful of fruits per day. Get at least 8 hours of sleep and be sure to stay hydrated all throughout. Hope this helps! Make it a healthy day!

  2. I agree that some exercise is better than none at all, but I also think that what goes on “between the ears” is highly underrated. I have noticed that when I am in a situation where I feel I need to protect myself, for instance, I tend to gain weight. I am an active person, albeit, at 63.9 🙂 I have slowed down a bit. But I do see a direct correlation between how I feel about myself and the way I look, which includes my weight.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Carmen,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! Yes, factors such as stress or anxiety can make a significant impact in your efforts to lose weight. Your body, secretes hormones which drastically affect your ability to digest food and for most, an increase in the production of fat layers around the abdomen. That said, I do encourage you to find time to exercise as much as possible not so much for weight loss but also to maintain your range of motions. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  3. Comments like this…another study to support limited exercise to live a long, healthy and thin life are absolutely ridiculous. You are basically encouraging people to do a little stretching and take a walk to remain fit. I’m not suggesting a routine that leads to exhaustion, but come on, this is no substitute for 45 to 60 minutes of yoga, cardio, weight resistance, core strengthening, etc. bad information!!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! I apologize for the confusion with regards to the article above and please allow me to explain further. One of the most common reasons that prevent folks from exercising is the lack of time. The article above mainly stresses that squeezing in a few simple routines, where possible, is better than not exercising at all. And, that these simple tasks, do burn calories just as it would if you took an hour at the gym. That said, while the study discusses the benefits of quick exercises, they in no way negate the long term benefits of a true or regimented workout routine. The article was meant to inspire or motivate others to be active and not think that exercise routines are mainly confined to the gym, studio or track. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  4. There is an exercise I do for my back and neck: sit in Indian style position. Turn neck slowly to each side 20 times as thought you were saying no. Then, raise head up and down slowly as though you were saying yes. For the back: Lay on side, raise both legs up and down 10 times, turn to the other side, raise the other side of legs 10 times. Then lay on back with knees up and feet down, then raise hips up and down slowly 20 times. Next while laying down with feet on floor and knees up, raise one leg up, then place on floor, then the other leg up slowly, then place on floor. Do this 20 times. This relieves the pressure in the back. Hope this helps. It helps me. Esther

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your exercise with us! It is always good to hear from you and I always appreciate your thoughts! Have a healthy day!

  5. Dear Dr. S. Sisskind,
    All that was good but unrealistic. Especially doing these exercises at work. I am retired now but when I worked in medium size corporation, my manager was very unsupportive to all these type activities that take you away from your work and computer. Otherwise I would lose my job and that type of a corporate behavior is all over in our country. I still don’t understand why to keep our cholesterol in check. By now even the mainstream medical community (some of them) knows that cholesterol is NOT the cause of CHD but internal arterial inflammation. The statistic shows that at least 65% of heart attacks happened to people with normal or low cholesterol.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! Yes, I completely agree with your insight that cholesterol, per se, may not directly cause CHD. However, uncontrolled levels of it in your circulatory system leads to complications such as arterial inflammation, high blood pressure and plaque formation, especially when you have a strong family history of Diabetes and heart disease, in general. It is for this reason that, while cholesterol itself may not directly cause a heart attack or stroke, leading practitioners still advocate and treat abnormally high cholesterol levels in an effort to reduce one’s risk of developing heart disease in the long run. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

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