Now we all know how hard it is to develop or maintain a regular exercise regime. Unused gym memberships and personal trainer lessons, forgotten cross fit packages, and the expensive sports equipment we bought when we thought we will start this new trendy thing and want look the part, the guilty blurry look into the mirror after a long night out with a few too many knowing that you wanted to go for a jog before work and so on…
I am a believer in choice architecture and that the built-environment can have a profound impact on nudging you towards developing and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Choice architecture states that by positioning or placing signs or cues you can trigger behaviors and behavioral changes. In order for these to work they should be easy to adopt and relevant to your life. Imagine a sign next to the elevator that states the approximate amount of calories you will burn when you take the stairs instead.
In Hong Kong we normally don't have the space for a proper home gym that stares you in the face every day but there are a lot of small things you can bring into your home to start making a work out part of your daily routine. Here are 8 ideas you can follow to make exercise regular and excuse-free.
1. Use a Standing Desk
Sitting is bad for you. Our bodies are not designed to sit for long periods of time. Humans evolved to naturally be on the move (if you can spare 5 minutes watch this TED ED video about "Why sitting is bad for you" and / or read this NYC Times article.)
Apart from a number of negative short-term health effects, such as bad posture, back and joint pain, limited lung capacity, blockages of nerves, arteries and veins and slower brain activity, sitting for long periods has been linked to certain types of cancer, heart disease and can contribute to diabetes, kidney and liver problems. What's especially alarming is that extra physical activity does not seem to offset the costs of prolonged sitting.
What you can do
If you have a desk at home, switch to a sit-stand desk (ideally electronically adjustable). And at work you should try to convince your employer. Workplace design is often treated as a cost, not an investment. Countries like Denmark have realized this and just made it mandatory for employers to offer their employees sit-stand desk. Standing desks reduce sedentariness, improve mood but might take a bit of getting use to. For further health benefits check out this Fast Company article. Here some resources:
- Standing desks in Hong Kong:
- Turn your existing desk into a standing desk
Since you will not be standing the entire time ensure that your desk chair is ergonomically designed. As I am typing this I am at my NextDesk Air walking on a LifeSpan treadmill at a very humble 3 km/h. For those of you who want to go a bit more hardcore, consider wearing a weight vest while working at your treadmill desk. If you prefer 'cycling' more than walking, consider the stylish elliptical Cubii.
2. Install a pull-up bar
Pull-ups are one of the best compound movements to improve upper body strength (same with push-ups actually). In previous renovations we put pull-up bars in showers where they doubled as hangers for drying clothes. Either ask a contractor to install a metal bar wherever it fits in your flat or go for one of the many suppliers of doorway chin-up bars, like JoinFit in HK or ProSource in the U.S. Alternatively consider a wall-mounted dip bar (also available at JoinFit).
3. Get a Yoga Mat
If your flat is really tiny, a simple yoga mat might do the trick. Not only for yoga but also for body-weight exercises or the now famous scientifically effective 7-Minute Workout. Other great apps are:
4. Exercise with a wooden balance board
There are a lot of types of exercising products on the market. One of my favorites is the Fit&Me Balance Board. This wobble board is designed for everyday balance training and it is ideal for people with lower leg, knee and ankle injuries. It helps you to strengthen your core muscles and to improve your posture. Applicable for all fitness levels and comes with a free exercise guide to ensure best fitness outcome.
5. Try TRX
The very hip Navy SEALs suspension exercise can be set-up by putting a hook into your ceiling and/or via a door anchor. TRX helps you develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. The possibilities are endless. Great for an effective total-body workout at home.
6. reflexology massage in your bathroom
Who says we should only enjoy a foot reflexology massage at at therapist. It's actually very easy to install this in your bathroom or shower. As we did in our show flat in Hong Kong. Even though it is not yet 100% clear how reflexology actually works and whether there are any real medical benefits, I think that e.g. after a long-run it truly feels amazing and helps me to recover faster. Alternatively use a Lacrosse ball or the RAD roller - both are amazingly effective and perfect for at-home massages.
7. Get Home exercise equipment (that does not take up a lot of space)
There is a wide variety of home exercise equipment. Here my favorite ones. Most of these items are available in Hong Kong as well.
- Hand grippers - also great for the office
- Skipping rope - cheap, portable and a very effective cardio training
- Wobble boards - to improve balance, functional strength and mental focus
- Exercise / resistance bands - for a whole body workout and lots of varieties
- Adjustable dumbbells - the space saving alternative to conventional dumbbells
- Ab Wheel - for getting that 6-pack and strengthen your core without compromising posture
- Minimal / barefoot shoes or socks: Vibram, Vivobarefoot, New Balance Minimus, ZEM Gear, Merrell, Sockwa - read 'Born to Run' to find out why...
- Bosu ball - great for balance training
8. wear a fitness tracker
They are everywhere and I think they will become a staple wearable. We are not there yet, with too many standards, inaccuracies and too many brands trying to get a slice of the market. It seems that Apple hasn't cracked the code yet either with its new Apple watch. So it’s an interesting space to keep an eye on. Whether you go for a Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Microsoft Band, Basis Peak, Garmin Vivoactive, Misfit Shine etc. doesn't matter and is up to you. The clear advantage is that you get data about how many steps you have taken (you should do 10,000 a day), calories you burnt, your heart rate, your sleep etc. Keep in mind though that just looking at the data does not improve your health and fitness. You have to make a conscious effort to act on it and this seems to be a bit of a problem. Studies have shown that most people do not act on the data and wear these trackers for not longer than 3 months. So keep in mind that it takes a bit of effort to really turn these trackers into helpful companions.
9. Turn your Home into a Boxing Ring
Killspencer offers very stylish heavy and / or speed bags. Perfect for letting out your inner Rocky Balboa. If you happen to live in an industrial loft in Chai Wan or Ap Lei Chau, consider their Indoor Mini Basketball Kit. Unfortunately only available via online purchase from their workshops in LA.
The above will not automatically turn you into a home gym rat but the products and ideas can act as cues to nudge you towards exercising more. What's most important is that you develop an exercise routine and that's why in one of my next posts I will write about the power of developing habits. So stay tuned and please share this post with friends you think would enjoy it. In order not to miss any future blog posts, sign up for our newsletter here. In our 'Learning Center' you can also download our latest White Papers on 'Clean Drinking Water in Hong Kong' and 'Breathing Clean Air in Hong Kong'.