Getting in your 10,000 steps, the distance we should all be walking every day for improved health, can seem daunting. It sounds like a lot. And between the commute, the nine hours most of us spend sitting at a desk, and that precious hour or two of spent in front of the television at the end of a long day, many of us struggle to see how we can find the time and space for exercise.
But you don't have to be going for long hikes or spending two hours at the gym each morning - even small changes can have big health benefits. Here are 20 simple tips to help you build more activity into everyday life.
1 Try 'exercise snacking'
TV doctor Rangan Chaterjee has coined the term "exercise snack" to describe short, sharp bursts of movement which can be done anywhere, anytime. "For me, the kitchen has always been a fantastic place to indulge in a quick movement snack," he writes in his book, The 4 Pillar Plan. "I do 20 squats with my kids in the time it takes for spinach to steam. You could take two bottles of olive oil and lift them up over your head and to the sides, hop on each leg for 30 seconds or even simply jump from side to side."
"The point," he says, "is to get your heart pumping three or four times a day. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that small bursts of movement like these won't have much effect, but it's these little things you do every day that translate into the big health outcomes."
2 Find what makes you happy
So says Leanne Davis, author of Run Mummy Run. "Running makes me happy, so I make sure I fit runs into my busy week," she explains. "You are more likely to keep going with exercise you enjoy. Work out what makes you happy. Is it working out with friends? Running in the countryside? Running to upbeat music? Find what you love and running won't feel like a chore."
3 Get a little help from your friends
Arranging to meet a friend to do something active "makes you accountable," explains HSE physical activity coordinator Colm Casey. "If you're going to go out walking on your own and something good comes on the television, you're probably going to put it off. But if you have to meet with a friend for a walk at 6pm, you're not going to want to let them down."
4 Keep it interesting
Changing the scenery can stave off boredom, says Leanne Davis. "Check out an Ordnance Survey map for your area and you might discover places and paths you didn't know were there. On occasion, you could also try taking a short drive to a new route such as the coast. Mixing things up can really help you to stay motivated."
5 Work out your 'why?'
"I would call a dog a great personal trainer," says the HSE's Colm Casey."You come home in the evening, a dog has got a lead in it's mouth looking at you. You feel guilty because the dog hasn't been walked. It doesn't matter whether it's15 minutes or five minutes, whatever - they'll love you for it and you're getting your exercise. What amazes me now is the amount of people who have dogs and employ dog walkers to do the walking for them. And could be going to a personal trainer themselves that evening. That's a free personal trainer!"
9 Break it up
"You can build up to 30 minutes or more a day by being active for 10 minutes at a time," says Jason King from Get Ireland Walking. "10,000 steps generally equates to roughly 8km. You would be surprised how quickly one can attain this by introducing short conscious walks into our day."
1okeep your gear close to hand
"Leave your shoes and walking gear by the door, or in the car," says King, "so that they are always available if the opportunity to get active presents itself."
11 Go old-fashioned
Technology can be a problem when it's a barrier to the constant, light exercise that used to be an unavoidable part of daily life. Or, as Colm Casey puts it, "we have a severe case of sitting disease." We have robots now that will clean our floors, websites where we do our shopping. "The Amish people, their average daily step count is in the range of 15,000 for females and 18,000 for males -they're still living without automation. In Ireland, the average person gets 8,000 to 9,000 steps."
Technology is part of the problem. "We used to walk around Tesco picking up stuff," says Casey. "Transportation is built in such a way that we don't have to walk anywhere. Take the new Luas Cross City, it would be quicker to walk across the city than take the Luas but the Luas is now an option and that's the one that most people will take."
12 Make your day harder
It's all about finding quick and easy strategies to add those few extra steps into the things you do everyday. "Park in the parking space that's furthest away from the door," says Casey. "All the spaces closest to the door are usually gone. Nobody wants to go there. That's 30-40m of a walk. Take the stairs instead of the lift as much as you can."
13 Embrace technology
"If you have a pedometer or an activitytracking device, that will count your steps and it will kind of hold you accountable," explains Casey. "You'll be looking at it and hoping to improve it." You don't need to splash out on a fancy new gadget. "Every smart phone has a health app in it and that will track your step count on a daily basis. Ninety per cent of the population is using smart phones. It is intrinsic within motivational behaviour that those kind of things do work."
The fancy name for fidgeting is "non-exercise adaptive thermogenesis" says Oisin McCabe, trainer and owner of Gym Compound Fitness in Dublin 17. But what that means is simply "burning calories without actually exercising. You see people who tend to not carry a lot of weight - one common trend many of the will have is that they tend to fidget a lot. Something as simple as getting into the habit of drumming out beats with your feet can actually burn a few extra calories in a day. You can do it with your hands as well, but people tend to notice that more."
15 Start small and simple
"If something as small as fidgeting can be the difference between carrying extra weight versus not carrying weight, I don't think it's necessary for people to believe that they have to go off and do some sort of crazy insane high-intensity workout that they read about in a magazine somewhere to see results," explains Oisin McCabe. Get yourself set up "with a simple routine you can stick to, and be consistent with that. It may even feel easy when you do it initially," he says. "But then over time at your own pace, you can try to increase the intensity bit by bit. Or you can get a coach, who can slowly start to progress the intensity, increase the calorie burn, so that as you make progress they don't stall."
16 Find your tribe
As Leanne Davis of Run Mummy Run explains, a running club is a good start if you want to find like-minded individuals who share your passion. "They have moved on a lot from days gone by," she says. "There are so many sociable running clubs out there now catering for all types of abilities, focusing on fun and support. Not only will the regular meet-ups keep you interested and motivated but it's likely to open up a world of friendships and running buddies." If running isn't your thing, outdoor swimming friends or dancing mates are every bit as good.
"Walking can be built into our daily lives quite easily," says Jason King from Get Ireland walking. "We do need, however, to build an awareness of "why" we're doing it, and what drives us to engage.This can be for our physical health, the sociability factors of walking with others or within a group. It could also be to clear our minds of clutter and improve our mental health."
6 Use your lunchbreak
You could scroll through Twitter or you could stroll through town. Only one of those options is going to do have a positive impact on your health.
7 Set the clock
Don't sit for more than 60 minutes at a time, suggests Dr Rangan Chatterjee. "Put a reminder on your computer or get your Fitbit to buzz you every 60 minutes and, if you haven't stood up, go to the drinks machine or to the loo," he writes. "A bonus tip would be to do as much of your walking as possible in the morning, as exposure to natural light helps set your body's daily, circadian rhythm. One recent study found that exposure to bright morning light correlates with a lower body weight."
8 Get (or borrow) a dog