Inside: If you’re desperate to break the endless loop of being inactive, check out these practical tricks and tips to break out of a sedentary lifestyle. This post includes affiliate links.
My routine was going the same every day: Get ready for work, get to work, sit, sit some more, then do some sitting. Go sit somewhere to eat lunch. Then work more while sitting. Get home, eat dinner, sit on the couch. Sleep. [END SCENE]
I’m routinely exhausted. But the routine is what is exhausting.
Somehow sitting all the time is making my body revolt.
There’s a lightning bolt of pain that shoots through my back when I move wrong. I have a constant knot in my shoulder. My hips throb with tightness. How do my hips even GET sore doing nothing?!
One night as I was lounging comfortably on the couch, I decided it’s time for a change. I need to be there for my kids, I want to feel better for me and look better for myself and for my husband.
It’s time. I need to stop the cycle of my sedentary life!
Confessions of a Semi Sedentary Woman?
After my revelation I realized that I’m pretty addicted to sitting. Isn’t that weird?
Maybe it’s not the actual sitting but the things I do while sitting that I’m addicted to.
I feel addicted to using my computer…it doesn’t help that it’s needed for my job.
I feel practically addicted to watching TV in the evening. It’s how we unwind and how my husband and I spend time together. Maybe addicted is a pretty strong word but it sure is hard to break out of our habits.
So here’s the thing.
I still do those things. I’m here, on my computer typing away. I’ll sit on the couch tonight watching an episode of Somebody Feed Phil or Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy.
But I get more movement now than I ever have.
Let me take you through how I do it- and how you can too!
Sedentary Because of an Injury or Health Condition?
Hold up one sec! I’m sure many of you have soreness and fatigue like me, but many people are also sedentary due to injuries or illness.
It might hurt to walk, but at the same time, not walking contributes to the pain. These tips can work for you too but first thing’s first.
We always hear what I’m about to say, “Always talk to your doctor first before beginning any fitness program.” Which we should all do, not just those with injuries or illness!
But if you have any medical conditions or limiting injuries you shouldn’t just be asking permission to exercise but also ask what type of exercise is best for you.
Ask how you can take that first step of breaking a sedentary lifestyle. What better person to ask for recommendations than the doctor or physical trainer who has been treating you?
So your extra bonus tip is just that: Make the call. Ask your doctor what to start with.
Phew. Okay now that we got that outta the way…
Tips for Starting to Break Out of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Getting started is the hardest part. Hands down. Just having the courage to make one tiny change, it feels almost insurmountable. Like ripping off a super glued band-aid!
But if you just take that first step. That first walk. That first trip to the gym. That first house lap during the commercials….every other time will be SO much easier.
That first time is just….the hardest.
You know what? Go do it now. It’s too important. I can wait. Get up and walk even one lap around the house or the office. Do a workout video, go for a nice walk outside.
Take your pick. It doesn't even have to be the thing you're going to do every day. Just something new and active. I’ll be here when you get back.
Done? WOOHOO! See. You’ve already done the hard part! Now it won’t feel weird next time and it won’t be the first time. It’ll be the easy peasy second time. Pshht. You’re already a pro.
Now the key is to increase gradually after congratulating yourself for each thing you do.
It's mostly about commitment, and forming new habits. Design your new routine. The routine that frees you from the pain of sitting.
If you wait until you “want to exercise” you may be waiting a long long time. Instead, notice what you really want: to just stop being sedentary.
So let’s go, let’s DO this! It’s time for a new routine, one that doesn’t make your body revolt.
How to Break Out of a Sedentary Lifestyle
I’ve asked around to others who have successfully broken free from a sedentary lifestyle for their tips and advice.
Below I’ve listed ideas that have worked for them and for me. Read through and find just one, or pick 10! FYI I have added some affiliate links to this post for easy shopping.
We start with some basic lifestyle tips, then tips for using a Fitbit, tips for work, tips for home and finally some SUPER FUN ways to break a sedentary lifestyle.
Adding just one new habit can make a huge impact. Consider these easy but impactful lifestyle changes.
- Take a quick walk every day, first thing in the morning. Commit to do it daily. Like brushing your teeth or getting dressed – don’t think about it – no option. Going first thing prevents us from procrastinating or from talking ourselves out of it. Start small, even if it's just down the block. Next time we can go a little farther.
- Enlist a buddy. Whether it's a walking partner or a long-distance accountability friend, having some support goes a long way!
- If a buddy isn't your style, try a supportive facebook community (this weight loss app & program has amazing Facebook community.)
- Make rules for yourself. “If I want junk food, I have to go for a walk before opening the pantry.” Maybe after a nice walk we won’t even want that junk food.
- Make it impossible to ignore. Set out walking clothes and sneakers by the bed and get walking before you are even fully awake.
- For anyone who might feel self conscious walking outside with other people around, wake up early and go before everyone else is out and about.
- If you prefer to work out at home, there is a huge variety in home workouts nowadays and many are available on demand and streaming to your smart TV, computer or phone. Here are a few examples: Check out the workout videos available with an Amazon Prime membership (if you are not a Prime member, Try Amazon Prime with a 30-Day Free Trial). Or check out my list of Weight Loss Apps that Offer a Free Trial.
- Two words: House laps. Start small. Set a timer, maybe once per hour, do one lap. When that feels easy, you can bump it up to more laps or more often.
- Music helps tremendously! Find music that makes you want to move. I use my Amazon Echo when I clean or cook to play my favorite energetic music. It instantly adds movement to my day.
Using a Fitbit to Add Activity and Break a Sedentary Lifestyle
Fitbits are activity trackers that help you get an idea for how many steps you use each day. In addition to measuring your steps, they have tools built right in that help motivate you and remind you to be active.
You can use them to check your progress throughout the day. With a Fitbit or other pedometer, you can glance down at 10:30 and notice you haven’t walked much today. Time for a quick break!
Use the reminder feature. Fitbit has an option on several models where it will tell you to get up any move once an hour if you haven’t already gotten 250 steps that hour. No thinking involved! Just get up and go for a walk.
Make sure to set achievable goals. If you are using a Fitbit and you go with the default step goal of “10,000 steps a day”, you might be discouraged to see you’re not hitting your goal. You can change your step goal in your app. See how many steps you get most days and set it to an attainable number just beyond that. When you are hitting that goal most days, then increase the goal a little more.
Little Ways to Add More Steps Every Day
Sometimes you need to go big or go home. But when you're going from sedentary to active- less is more. Start small, incorporate a couple new activities and see how your body reacts. Go at your own pace and remember to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.
Again, always check in with your doctor or trainer.
Here are some small changes that you can make every day to get more movement in your life:
- Parking at the farthest parking spot from any store.
- When you get inside the store, walk a lap around the perimeter before you start your shopping. If you have time, add more laps in between your shopping list items.
- If laps are not for you, walk every aisle of the grocery store even if you don't need anything in that aisle.
- Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators.
- Walk to a post office box rather than putting letters in your own mailbox.
- Consider whether or not a dog would be a good pet for you. If so adopt one, if not make friends with a dog owner and go for walks together.
- If weekends are not very active for you, make a list of local landmarks, state parks or other places or interest and start exploring.
Tips for Being Less Sedentary at Work
For people working in an office setting or less physically active jobs, you might have days where you feel glued to your desk for hours per day. This doesn't have to be a deal breaker for getting your steps. Here are some easy ideas for how to boost your activity level, even when your office chair is calling your name.
- Take mini walk breaks at work, just 10 or 12 minutes to walk.
- Delete instant messenger at work. Walk to your colleagues’ desks to ask questions.
- Use a set of under desk pedals to get your legs moving while you work.
- Always walk to the farthest bathroom.
- Suggest a walking meeting when weather will allow.
- Park farther from the office, or if you take public transportation, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
- Ask your boss if you can start a walking club and take walk breaks as a group.
- Send your documents to a printer at the other end of the office rather than the closest one.
- Find a task you can do on your phone instead of your computer and do it every day while you take a walk. Manage social media? Pin while you walk! Busy day ahead? Take a walk each morning while review your day, adding in appointments for walk breaks when they make sense. Full inbox? Walk until you clear it!
- My favorite tip for any desk job: Have you ever tried the Pomodoro Technique to be more productive at work? Give it a try but when the timer goes off, give your body a break and take your walk then.
Ways to Avoid Physical Inactivity While Working From Home
When I wrote this article, most of us were going to work every day. If that has changed for you, and you find yourself working from home…there are ways to engineer physical activity into your day.
- Use your Fitbit or timer to remind your to take movement breaks. Plan out what those breaks entail. 5 house laps? A walk around the block? Could you schedule a different strength training movement for each break?
- Consider adding a Standing Desk or Treadmill Desk at home. Check out the photos of the various standing desks I've tried, from super cheap to more substantial, including my treadmill desk.
- Taking work calls from home? Pop a notepad and pen in your pocket and take that call while you go for a walk.
- Walk to lunch. Maybe not to a fast food joint, but even to a park or other outdoor space that gives you a break from being home, fresh air AND physical activity.
Tips for Being Less Sedentary at Home
Ahhh. The work day has ended, time to relax, right? Well after a hectic day it's easy to plop down on the couch as a reward for making it through. If you carve out just a little bit of that time to treat your body right, you will start to break the habit of sedentary behaviors. You don't have to run a marathon every day, just squeezing in physical activity during your regular life can help ward off the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
- Gotta have your TV time? March in place, jump rope, do yoga, or even house laps during your daily screen time. Maybe you sit for the show and move during the commercials.
- Listen to audio books while you walk- but ONLY when you walk. Research shows that listening to suspenseful audio books only when you work out will make you crave working out! It's called Temptation Bundling and you could try it for exercise and other tasks. This could be used during your breaks at work too.
- Folding laundry? Instead of plopping down on the bed or couch while you fold, walk each piece to its place every time. You’d be shocked at how many steps you get!
- Set a reminder to make a phone call to catch up with a family member or friend, and pace around the house while you talk. I have some friends and family that I could talk to for 30 minutes easily, and it is great motivation to keep in touch during our otherwise busy lives. You could have a schedule for every day of the week, or just on the days when you typically are less active. I walk my son to school on week days, so on the weekends it is harder to get as many steps. I call one of my parents each weekend day and just walk the whole time we talk.
- My favorite tip for home time: It's another temptation bundling idea. No phone surfing unless you are pacing or doing house laps. This is how I bump myself over the edge most days if I need more steps. If you mindlessly scroll through an unending feed of status updates…why not just stand up and do it while you're walking? It can make a big difference.
RELATED: When You Need a Step Bump (Free printable to help reach your step goal)
Or get out of the house all together!
Try volunteering – find a cause that speaks to your heart- and gets your heart pumping:
- Is there a park or forest preserve that you love? Volunteer to help clean it up once a week.
- Love pets? Volunteer as a dog walker at a local shelter.
- Offer to do chores for a neighbor in need.
- Sports lover? Referee youth sports.
- Want to be a mentor? Volunteer at a Boys & Girls Club.
Find a fun community to join or class to take that offers something you find appealing:
- Salsa dancing lessons
- Inject more JOY and movement in your life with the Daybreaker. It is a playful community with an app that combines dancing, yoga and other mindful movement to activate the happiness chemicals in your brain. Talk about a win-win scenario. You can start a 14 day free trial here.
- Outdoor photography
- Stroller fitness (excellent for parents of little kiddles!)
Or maybe you'd be more motivated by a little competition?
- Fitbits have built in challenges that allow you to go toe-to-toe with your friends.
- No Fitbit? No problem! You can find a friend to compete with and just use the honor system to see who can be more active. Agree on the terms- and the reward!
- Try a Weight loss challenge group (some even pay cash prizes). According to a recent Mayo Clinic study on weight loss, participants who received cash incentives were more likely to stick with the weight-loss program and lost more weight than participants who received no incentives. Find your incentive when you bet on your weight loss with a HealthyWager from HealthyWage.
Super Fun Ways to Break the Sedentary Lifestyle
If all those ideas are not FUN enough for you, maybe you need one of these game oriented activities to get your body moving! They may be games but they are definitely not just for kids! If you don't see one you like below, keep your eyes peeled for more “augmented reality game” to get your body moving.
If you love playing video games, and often find yourself “glued to the game” these active gaming ideas are PERFECT for you!
Options for Gamifying Your Way to and Active Lifestyle
- Pokemon Go – Use this app to explore your neighborhood and catch Pokemon out in the real world. There is even a Pokemon Bluetooth Bracelet you can get to alert you to game related events when you're not looking at your phone. FUN!
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite! is an app created by the same company as Pokemon Go, with a similar feel. If you are a wizarding fan, this will get you moving for sure.
- Ingress -Also from the makers of Pokemon Go ( Ok, I should say that Pokemon Go was created by the makers of Ingress, because it actually came first!) comes this super crazy, intense augmented reality games. It's a struggle for the fate of the world. Which team will you choose? This one is like the Matrix and Pokemon Go had a baby.
- Go Noodle – A free website and app that provides high energy, super silly workout and dance videos. I highly recommend this one for anyone with young kids! My kids and I could do this all day long.
- Biggest Loser for Wii or for xBox – If you're always on your gaming system, try one of these on for size in between your other favorites.
- Zombies, Run -Walk, jog or run, this game is fun at ANY speed. Check out over 200 special missions to see if you make it out alive.
- Geocaching – Think of geocaching as an ongoing, community-based scavenger hunt. Using an app on your smart phone, you view a map of your area, and choose a cache to search for. Follow the GPS signal to the dot on your map and start searching for a tiny hidden treasure. Log your visit, and start searching for another one. While it's probably more geared towards adults, I've done this with my kids and it had us exploring all kinds of neat areas around our neighborhood. We even found some hidden by kids, for kids.
- Use a Couch to 5K trainer and sign up for a fun run. Seeing other people committed to a healthy lifestyle can be great motivation. These days there is a run or walk for everyone. Go super silly at a Color Run to see everyone coated in colors or go all out and train for a Spartan Race. There are tons of small, local races as well as massive annual runs. Pick one that works for you and build up to it. Every step makes a difference!
- The Silent History – Another one for horror flick fans, this “digital novel” has you uncovering the pieces of a super creepy mystery all over town. Like Blair Witch and Pokemon Go had a super creepy, super active baby.