It might seem like a pipe dream to squeeze an hour-long workout at the gym into your hectic daily schedule. But you can sneak in exercise while getting ready in the morning, commuting, working and unwinding with family in the evenings. It just takes a little creativity, that’s all.

But first, let’s go over why you need to get moving more. Simply put, leading a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to your health and wellbeing, says Fredina Usher-Weems, Fitness Program Manager of the Lifestyle 180 program at the Cleveland Clinic. “Being sedentary can lead to chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also result in obesity, respiratory problems, knee and back problems, and osteoporosis,” she explained.

There’s no doubt inactivity is dangerous. A study in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of the American College of Cardiology found no matter how much time you spend being physically active, you’re doing serious damage to your health if you’re parked in front of the television or computer for two or more hours a day. In fact, your risk of heart attack or cardiac complication goes up by 125%. If you sit motionless for at least four hours a day, you’re 48% more likely to die of any cause, regardless of how much you exercise the rest of the time.

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In other words, even if you manage to hit the gym a few times a week, sitting around for the majority of your day (hello, desk jobs!) hits your health, hard. Obesity researchers have pegged the rise of sedentary jobs in the U.S. (as workers moved from physical jobs like farming to hunching-over-a-computer office jobs) as one of the key reasons for the creeping obesity epidemic. Human bodies are meant to move!

If you have a sedentary job — and 80% of U.S. citizens do — don’t feel discouraged. You can easily take control of your activity level and improve your health. It’s not as hard as you think: Get up from your desk and walk around throughout your workday. You can even take a walk around the block. The more activity you can fit into your day, the better.

So, wondering how to exercise all day? Usher-Weems also recommends being mindful of movement habits. When lifting a heavy object, use your core: When you lift up, she says to drop your shoulders and your pelvis, while engaging your abdominal muscles to prevent injury. Sprinkle a few of these creative ideas into your day to jumpstart your active, healthy lifestyle:

While getting ready in the morning…

  • Do calf raises while brushing your teeth.
  • Do squats while choosing an outfit.
  • Try 30 seconds of high-knee marching in place before jumping in the shower.

While commuting…

  • Bike, walk or run to work if possible and safe.
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together and release.
  • Clench and relax your glutes while driving.
  • Contract and relax your abdominals, holding the contractions for up to one minute.

While at work…

  • Alternate leg lifts in the elevator.
  • Sit on a large exercise ball at your desk for part of the day.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Lunge-walk your way to the restroom.
  • Lean your back against the wall and hold a squat position as long as you can.
  • Do wall pushups and tricep dips at your chair during a break.
  • Strengthen your inner thighs by holding onto a railing or chair and turning one leg in while holding it up in the air, switching legs.

While unwinding after work…

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood with family members or friends.
  • Do activities with your children like jumping rope, backyard races, riding bikes or basketball.
  • Pace around your house while talking on the phone.
  • Throw balls for your dog in the backyard.
  • Dance.

In short, find all the reasons you can to get moving. It might feel strange at first to do exercises in places you don’t normally work out, but soon it will become second nature! Your body will thank you.

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