8 Ways to Achieve a More Active Lifestyle

Small Changes Make a Big Difference in Mental and Physical Well-being

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Whether you suffer from a clinical anxiety disorder, like generalized anxiety disorder, or struggle with the nagging worries of everyday life, increasing your physical activity can help enhance your sense of wellbeing. ‘Active’ can mean different things to different people. It may also serve you well if it can mean different things at different moments to you: a formal exercise routine one day and a break for fresh air during work hours the next day.

Here are 8 ideas to help you build more activity, of varying degrees, into your day:

1. Stretch.

Many of us spend the majority of our day sitting – at a desk staring at the computer, in meetings with colleagues, or in the car, chauffeuring children to and from after-school activities.  Building some stretches into the routine can help to get the blood flowing, to correct problems with posture, prevent soreness or tightness, and calm the mind. 

For a primer on some basic stretches, check out this slideshow.

2. Take a 10-minute walk around the block.

Think of this like a self-imposed “time-out” or a “reset button” for your mind and mood. A brief walking break is another version of stretching – stretching your legs. To enhance relaxation during this time, consider listening to a favorite music playlist or focusing intently on your breath.

3. Use the stairs.

Climbing the stairs is one way to build more activity into your day without taking time out to do so, whether it’s department store shopping or going to a doctor’s appointment, and a little can go a long way.

If you haven’t opted for stairs over the escalator or elevator in a long time, start small by opting for stairs when it’s a 1-flight climb and then build your way up as you notice your strength and fitness improving.

4. Make activity a family affair.

Think of ways that changes in activity could enhance quality time with your family members.

Joining your spouse when he or she walks the dog gives you a chance to talk without distraction. Play hopscotch with the kids or get every family member involved in active chores around the house and evaluate how this impacts your family’s ability to play and work together.

5. Let activity be playful.

Can you conjure up a childhood image of playful activity, one in which the body is being used as a vehicle for exploration or accomplishment? Your vision might be a real memory or imagined, based on your own child, a friend, a favorite summer movie or song.

Use this image to guide you towards an activity that you might really enjoy that might reconnect with you this former self or help you stay focus on activity for activity’s sake, rather than activity to meet some harsh or rigid expectation.

6. Join a community of active people.

Does your company have a softball team? Is there a friend you might meet for a short mid-day stroll? Is there a new moms group that might get you to the playground to play and talk?

Building a network of folks in support of an active lifestyle is a great way to establish accountability and foster encouragement.

7. Build activity around your errands and other plans.

If it’s difficult or costs too much, you might not be as active as you otherwise could.  So make it easy on yourself by walking to do some of your errands, parking farther away from your destination, or standing up and moving around the field while you cheer your child on during his soccer game.

8. Create a mini exercise routine.

If you have an exercise routine but find your unable to fit it in regularly, create a mini-routine and let that count as a job well done on busy days (especially since there is some evidence of its benefit). This could be a series of stretches and strengthening exercises that you can complete in 10 minutes or less. If this interests you, consider whether or not a Smartphone app like this might serve as a useful coach.

Remember, to be most beneficial, physical activity needs to be a regular part of the routine – a habit. It’s most likely to become automatic if you aim small on some days, track your progress over time, and choose activities that appeal to you.

When making changes to your day-to-day activity level, consult your physician to discuss any questions or concerns you might have given the state of your overall physical health.


Klika, B, Jordan, C. High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results with Minimal Investment. American College of Sports Medicine's Health & Fitness Journal. 2013; 17: 8-13.

National Institute on Aging. Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging. National Institutes of Health, 2011.

Otto, MW, Smits, JAJ. Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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