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VCU HR Well-Being blog

Giving VCU employees the wellness resources they need to be healthy both on and off campus

Being physically active is one of the most important actions a person can take to improve their health. Evidence shows that physical activity is associated with a range of immediate and long-term benefits, including better sleep and mood, healthier weight, and lower risk of chronic disease. However, between work, school, errands, and family, it can be difficult to find opportunities to get in a workout. [View Image]

We know what you’re thinking — what is habit stacking?

The idea behind habit stacking is simple: add a new behavior to your daily schedule by “stacking it” on top of an existing habit. The concept of habit stacking was pioneered by James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, and it is designed to help individuals incorporate more healthy behaviors into their lives without disrupting their normal routine. Seamlessly incorporating physical activity throughout the day can lead to weight loss and reduced instances of chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension.

For example, many of us make coffee in the morning, and, whether you’re using a drip pot or French press, the brewing process takes between 5 – 10 minutes. During the time you wait for your coffee, you can easily add a new better-for-you behavior into your schedule, such as a few sets of high knees or a light jog-in-place.

By stacking enough of these habits, you’ll effectively incorporate a surprising amount of extra physical activity into your daily routine without even realizing it.

Coffee’s brewing: Run in place

Coffee takes between 5 – 10 minutes to brew, so put that time to good use every morning with some running in place. A brief aerobic workout — whether it’s walking, jogging, or running — can improve your endurance, lung capacity, circulation, and weight management.

Shower’s getting warm: Do calf raises

It takes a few minutes for the shower to warm up, but in that short amount of time, before stepping into the shower, you can be adding definition and strength to your calves. Calf raises improve strength and stability, making it easier to avoid injuries like a sprain or rolled ankle. A calf raise is easy to do and requires little room, just stand up straight and push through the balls of your feet until you are standing on your toes; if you feel like you’re off-balance, try holding on to a ledge or counter to stabilize yourself. Then slowly lower your feet back to the starting position.

Oatmeal’s in the microwave: Do countertop pushups

Oatmeal is just one example of a breakfast food that requires a little bit of time to prepare. While you’re waiting for the water to boil (or whole grain bread to toast), try doing some countertop pushups to strengthen your upper body. To do the exercise, face the countertop and place hands on the edge, around shoulder-width apart. Step your feet backward and lift your heels up so your body is in a plank position. Slowly lower your chest toward the counter, keeping your forearms parallel to each other; press your body back to the starting position and repeat. If countertop pushups are too strenuous, try a modified wall push-up instead.

Your favorite news show is on: Try a sun salutation

Watching television can be relaxing in itself, but adding a sun salutation into the mix will relieve both your body and mind. Serving as the backbone of many yoga traditions, the sun salutation is a simple yet powerful sequence of movements that stretches every part of the body. Check out our sun salutation infographic to see how to properly perform each step.

Working on your laptop: Stretch your shoulders

Many of us use a laptop for work and recreation, but time spent sitting at your computer can also be used as a chance to stretch out your chests and shoulders. For the stretch, lock your fingers behind your head and push your elbows backwards while squeezing with your upper back until you feel a stretch in your chest near your underarms. Hold for 20–30 seconds and repeat.

Brushing your teeth: Walk around the house

When it comes to brushing your teeth, dentists recommend the 2-2 rule: brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time — that’s four minutes of just staring at the mirror! Put that time to good use and walk around the house as you brush. It may not seem like a lot, but a couple minutes of walking can help with your balance, flexibility, and range of motion. For an added burn, turn your mini walks into hikes by going up and down the stairs.

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