Between paying rent, attempting to eat healthy, and working in sedentary jobs, Millennials usually have scant time or resources to devote to exercising. Commuting to work, eating processed foods, and a lack of sleep also contribute to poor health. And don’t forget that many Millennials have significant student loan debt, which may also cause them to skimp on gym fees. Now, there are definitely exceptions to this rule: some people earn enough to live on their own and have flexible jobs, don’t have student loan debt, work in jobs that are not as sedentary and are just extremely good at managing their time and making exercise work.
For the vast majority of us, however, we need the office jobs to stay afloat. Daily commute times, the reality of paying our bills on time, and the stress of life can make exercise an out of reach activity. Our culture teaches us that we only exercise if we’re running, playing competitive sports, or putting in hours at the gym. Exercise is then seen as a tool for looking beautiful, losing weight, or increasing muscle mass. Instead, we should see exercise as a way to stay healthy, stave off depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes.
“There are so many benefits [to exercise],” says Natalia Porras, yoga instructor from Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Humans are the only animals that have back problems. I have so many students that seek yoga because of back pain, and many times that back pain has to do with a sedentary life, extensive periods of time sitting down [and] bad posture.”
According to the instructor, somebody living a sedentary life will eventually have a weak body as they are not using their muscles as often as they should. “That is just one of the many contradictions of our modern life style, and as time progresses, we find that even walking is a difficult activity,” she adds.
Most people spend long periods of time in front of a computer, and for this reason alone, Porras urges everyone to have some sort of physical activity. “This is the only way we can compensate for that sedentary life and keep our body and mind healthy,” she says.
If you can’t afford taking a class of some sort, here are a few ways to get moving:
- Office stretches: these stretches help those who have to sit at their desk all day. They’re easy to do while sitting down or even when you’re in the cafeteria.
- Take the stairs: if you work in a large building, it could help you to skip the elevator once in a while. If you haven’t exercised in a while, you can start by doing this for one or two floors and then move on up as you get more fit.
- Do the four-minute workout in the morning: the Center for Disease Control has a list that recommends the minimum amount of exercise you need if you do light, moderate, and vigorous intensity workouts. If you pay close attention, the more vigorous an activity is, the less time you seemingly need to dedicate to your routine. The four-minute workout isn’t a solution, but it’s probably a good starting point.
- Get out early: if you live in an urban area, maybe you can get out of the subway or bus one or two stops before and walk the rest of the way. If you drive, you can park farther away and walk a few more steps.
- Take a walk during your break: many people who work in offices are familiar with the coffee break. Some offices may also offer sweets, donuts, and other junk foods during these breaks, which can cause you to gain weight. You can try turning your coffee break into a walking break. If you really need your caffeine, consider buying a thermos or reusable coffee cup so you can walk while sipping your coffee.
“Once my students begin to practice regularly, their life makes a shift in which I really don’t have to say anything, they just experience it by themselves,” she says. “I constantly hear my students say, ‘I don’t know how I went an entire life without yoga.’ It becomes like a drug, a good one, where you just can’t imagine a life without it, and as soon as one stops practicing, you immediately feel something is missing in your life. Once you get moving and become more mindful of your body, it opens a door to the journey of overall well-being.”
If you’re like most people, you might not get this shift in mentality from a simple addition to your routine alone, but incorporating a few more movements into your daily life will certainly help you live a healthier life.
Written by Ingrid Cruz