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Secrets of Easy Exercise

Teen riding bikeIf you could get away with it, would you rather be vegging on the couch most of the time? Or are you too busy to think about exercising? Like many teens, you probably aren't getting your recommended 60 minutes of daily activity.

True, an hour can seem like a lot of time for a teen to set aside. But consider this piece of exercise motivation: You don't have to do it all at once. You can break your 60 minutes of activity into short chunks of 10 to 15 minutes -- or even very short two- to five-minute spurts -- throughout the day.

Still seem like a lot? Here's another secret: You can increase your daily activity without even having to put down your phone or get off the couch. Just start adding extra movements to your everyday routine. Like walk around the room while you talk on the phone. Or do a few leg-lifts while lying on the couch.

Once you start moving more -- even just a little -- you'll see how easy exercise can be. Plus, there are benefits that come with being active, including having more energy to do the things you want. The key is to get yourself moving more. And it doesn't even have to seem like exercise.

Why Daily Activity Makes a Difference

Why move? Moving helps keep your body's energy cycle in balance.  Every day you eat food to fuel yourself (measured in calories). Then you burn that fuel living your life, says James Levine, MD, in his book Move a Little, Lose a Lot. Getting up, chewing your breakfast, walking to class, and brushing your teeth all burn calories. Eating more calories than you burn can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which can lead to feeling lousy and major health problems, even in teens. Burning calories through daily activity is what keeps the calories-in/calories-out balance.

According to Levine, when you sit for long periods of time (like on the couch while studying or gaming), some fat-burning in your body is "switched off." For example, enzymes that help break down fat in your blood go into hibernation if you're too still for too long. That means these fats -- one of the major triggers of dangerous heart disease -- build up in your blood.

Although it may seem like there's lots of time to rid your body of fats, studies show that all-day sitting raises the risk of heart disease in both old and young people. A study found that couch potatoes and regular exercisers alike should avoid sitting and add extra movement during their day to lower their risk of heart disease.

Small Extra Movements Add Up

Here's the good news: All it takes is getting up to "break out of hibernation mode and switch these enzymes on again," Levine says in his book.

A daily activity you do seated or lounging -- reading, texting, gaming, watching TV -- typically burns 0 to 50 calories an hour. Just standing can double your calorie-burning. By getting up on your feet instead, you'd burn 50 to 100 calories an hour. How's that for easy exercise? Take it the next level by going for a walk or climbing stairs. You'll double your burn again -- 100 to 200 calories an hour.

Considering how easy it can be to eat extra calories without realizing it, every little bit of movement helps to keep your body's energy-in and energy-out in balance.

Ready to add more movement to your daily activity? Here are some ways to get started -- Try This: 12 Sneaky Exercises.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on December 23, 2013