Can little things improve your fitness?

Serious female freelancer using tablet at home

We asked a fitness expert, and her answer could help you improve your overall health.

Anyone who eats fruit and is more than 30-years-old knows that an apple a day will not, in fact, keep the doctor away. That said, you might have wondered: Could small behavioral changes make a big impact on your health?

For example, is it worth taking the stairs instead of the elevator when and if you return to the office. Or is it better to carry on doing everything in the most time-efficient way possible, then using the time saved for a more vigorous workout? To find out, we put the question to an expert, Aaptiv master trainer Jaime McFaden. (Note that eligible Haven Term policyholders enjoy a no-cost subscription to Aaptiv via the Haven Life Plus bonus rider.) Here’s what she told us.

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Start small

When asked if it’s worthwhile doing little things to boost fitness, McFaden is unequivocal: “100% it works,” she says. “Even one minute a day can make a difference because you are creating different behavioral patterns. A lot of times people think if they don’t get the hourlong workout in, or deal with the bigger picture stuff, the granular stuff isn’t worth it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.” She adds that “in fact, the small things compound over time, so even if a person was just to take a 1% shift every day, that adds up in the long run.”

As an example of the kind of small thing a person can do, McFaden says, “I’ve just been back to back on meetings, so I put my headphones in so I can take a quick walk while I talk to you.” (It should be noted that McFadden doesn’t sound out of breath or like she’s exerting herself at all, but of course she is a fitness professional.) “Walking is the most underrated exercise,” she says. “Not only does it burn calories, it also gives some mental clarity and focus. Getting outside for a 10 minute walk with no phone allows the brain and body mental and physical space.”

If you want to do something quick that feels more intentional, “I have clients get up and do a one minute plank, 10 jumping jacks or 50 squats,” says McFaden. All of those are things you can do during the course of a workday if you have a place you can be alone for a moment. (Planking during a meeting might be frowned upon.) In that vein, another option is to “put a song on that you love and get up and dance for three minutes.” Once again, this might be better in a private space, though you never know — turning your next all-hands into a dance party might just lead to a promotion.

“Even one minute a day can make a difference… People think if they don’t get the hourlong workout in, the granular stuff isn’t worth it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

—Jaime McFaden, master trainer with Aaptiv

Some ideas to get you started

So what are the little things a really busy person with an office job can do?

“Most of my clients are working much more than 40 hours a week, and they’re not getting up from their desks very frequently,” says McFadden. “For people in that situation, setting an alarm on your phone so that every hour you get up, have a glass of water and walk around for a few minutes is really valuable.” This of course has the bonus that almost anyone can do it, almost anywhere.

Earlier in the day, McFaden says, you can “have a morning ritual that involves self-care. A few minutes after waking up, stretch your body a little bit — just reaching your arms up, taking a big deep breath and maybe doing some gentle side twists. When you get up, drink a big glass of water; if you want to have some electrolytes, put some lemon and salt in there to kick start your metabolism.”

You don’t even have to do much planning in order to make small but useful changes. “Just doing something as simple as parking a bit further from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” she says. “Not only are you going to enhance your wellbeing physically, you’re also going to help enhance your focus and clarity.”

If all of this sounds simple, that’s because it is. And it should be. To make the most of small actions, McFaden says we should look for “attainable things we can do forever. Instead of thinking of it as a sprint to get somewhere, think of it as a marathon, something you can do for the rest of your life.”

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Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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