05/21/2013 12:33 EDT | Updated 07/21/2013 05:12 EDT

How to Be More Active Outside the Gym

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Close up of woman's hips, wearing yellow vest, pedometer attached to grey tracksuit bottoms, right hand on pedometer

I spend lots of time and energy motivating people to exercise. This month I had an epiphany -- in addition to encouraging people to do institutionalized forms of exercise, like strength training and 'going to the gym,' I need to start stressing the importance of sitting less. 'Going to the gym' and doing other forms of institutional exercise doesn't adequately address the reality that most of us live a primarily sedentary existence. Desk jobs are a necessary evil, but complete inactivity throughout the day doesn't have to follow.

Because of my epiphany I have been encouraging my clients to record their daily steps with a pedometer. Their initial recordings were typically around two or three thousand steps per day. That is the equivalent of moving only a kilometer throughout ones ENTIRE day. I asked them to try and progressively work up to 10,000 steps per day. The fantastic news is that by simply changing small daily habits, most of my clients are now clocking 10,000 plus steps per day and are feeling way more energetic and fit.

Seeing this, I started to think 'do I do that'? I run more than 10,000 steps on most days, but outside of running and biking I am not convinced I move enough in my daily life.

So, based on my client's success, and my curiosity about my own lifestyle habits, I have decided to challenge everyone, including myself, to take a month long movement challenge.

The main intent of the challenge is to encourage everyone to move away from thinking that doing traditional gym type "exercise" is the only way to become more active. Being more active is not about simply going to the gym. It has to be about sitting less in your daily life.

The details

1. Buy an inexpensive pedometer (try Shoppers Drug Mart or Running Room). On day one, wear the pedometer, but don't change any of your daily habits. Test yourself, see how many steps you get on a typical day. Over the next month, aim to increase your number of steps until you work up to a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.

Simple ways to get your steps:

Go for a walk at lunch with a colleague.

Get off a ttc stop early and walk to your destination.

Park a couple blocks away from your destination.

Walk after dinner with your partner.

On the weekends, walk to do your errands.

Constantly 'forget' something in another part of your home - preferably on another floor.

2. In addition to getting your steps, aim to do three stretches, or corrective postural exercises per day. Again, I am not talking about 'gym exercises.' Do stretches, and/or corrective postural exercises at your desk, in the car, on the sofa, or in bed. The aim of these exercises are to reduce the negative effects of sitting, therefore improving your quality of life.

Any stretch or posture exercise will do. For example:

-Do core exercise while you watch tv.

-Stretch your legs and back before you get out of bed in the morning.

-Use a door frame to stretch out your chest.

-When you are at your desk, break once an hour to stretch out your neck and shoulders.

Now for the fine print!

1. Don't let yourself 'off the hook' if you walk or run daily in a structured way for exercise. Aim for 10,000 steps in addition to your structured workouts. The idea is to build movement into your daily life!

2. Progressively increase your steps. Be especially cautious if your initial step count is around 2,000. Increase your number of steps gradually. Your tissues need time to adapt. In it not uncommon to develop negative pain in your joints, feet or back when you increase your steps too quickly. If your initial daily step count way around 2,000 steps per day, increase your daily step count by 1,000 steps per week until you are at 10,000. If your initial count was more like 7 or 8,000 and / or you feel you are in good shape, by all means, increase to 10,000 steps immediately.

To recap: your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is over the next month to become more mindful of your daily step count, and to incorporate stretches and postural exercises into your daily life! Remember, traditional "gym" exercises are not the only type of movement that is important. Don't get me wrong -- going to the gym is GREAT, but in addition to going to the gym try to subtly change your lifestyle so that you sit less, and move more!

Facebook me and tell me how it goes! I will blog in a month about how my own challenge went! Good luck!