That’s the timer on your smart watch, which you’ve set to go off every hour to remind you to get up and walk around. (Sitting is the new smoking, after all.) Or maybe it’s an “inactivity tracker” on your Fitbit or Apple Watch, which alerts you to stand up and get moving when a motion detector notices that your butt has been glued to your seat too long.
So far, so good. But what do you do when your alert goes off? Sure, you can stand up and walk around the office. You could take a bathroom break. If you’re home, you might wash the dishes—or vacuum the living room. But we thought that there must be healthier ways to be active for just a few minutes. So we asked Sims Corbett, senior learning designer for Silver Sneaker, a nationwide exercise program for older adults.
Her advice for the sitting public: Get up at least once every hour, and spend at least two to five minutes moving. Here are some easy moves to get your blood pumping, reenergize your mind and help you stay healthier…
SEVEN WAYS TO BE ACTIVE FOR JUST FIVE MINUTES OR LESS
Body-weight squats. Stand with your feet facing forward or turned just slightly out, a bit more than shoulder width apart, and your arms crossed over your chest. Keeping your back flat and your chest up, slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor…then rise back up to starting position. Repeat 10 times. This exercise can be done holding onto a chair for support or in front of a sturdy chair for guidance.
Lunges. Starting in the same position as for the body-weight squats, take a long step forward with either leg. Now, keeping your forward knee in line with your forward foot, slowly lower your body until the forward knee forms a 90-degree angle. Rise back up to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. You can do 10 repetitions with the same leg, and then switch and do 10 repetitions with the other leg…or turn the exercise into a walking lunge by alternating legs for each repetition. This exercise can be done next to a wall or study chair for support.
Leg side-raises. Holding onto a wall or chair and keeping your weight on one leg, lift the other leg out to the side as high as you can go, keeping it as straight as possible. Hold for a few seconds…then lower your leg. Repeat 10 times. Switch legs and repeat 10 times with the other leg. As you become stronger, consider wearing ankle weights…or using a resistance band. You can also improve your balance by doing the exercise without holding onto a wall or chair.
Heel raises. These and heel stands (below) are great to do while you’re talking on the phone because they don’t use much energy, Corbett says. If you need to, hold onto a wall or chair for support while doing the exercise. Slowly rise up on your toes as high as you can go…then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times. You can do this exercise with both feet at the same time…or boost resistance by doing it balanced on one foot at a time.
Heel stands. Again, holding onto a wall or chair for support if you need to, raise your toes as high as you can so your weight is on your heels. Hold for a few seconds…then lower your toes back down. Repeat 10 times. As with toe stands, if you want to add resistance to the exercise, try doing it balanced on one heel at a time
Wall push-ups. Face a wall, standing slightly farther than arm’s length away, and lean forward and place your hands flat against the wall. Keeping your back flat and your body in a straight line, slowly bend your elbows, lowering your upper body toward the wall until your elbows are about at a right angle. Then slowly straighten your arms, pushing your body back to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Deadbugs. Lie on your back with your arms extended over your shoulders and toward the ceiling. Your legs should also be extended over your hips, and your knees should be bent 90 degrees. Maintain a neutral spine while slowly lowering one leg until your heel almost touches the floor. At the same time, lower the opposite arm toward the floor. Lift them back up to return to the starting position, and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat five times on each side. You can make this exercise easier by making the movement smaller or by only moving the legs while keeping your arms extended overhead. You can make this exercise harder by straightening your legs.
If you get motivated, you can also increase the reps for these exercises. But it’s more important to just do them—so regularly that you hardly even notice how active you are. “Short bursts of activity throughout the day increase your life expectancy,” says Corbett. She has one bit of “fashion” advice, too. While you probably can’t wear sweats or yoga outfits to your office, try to wear clothing that lets you move easily. That way, you’ll always be ready to be active.