If you want to be as healthy as possible, treadmills and weight machines are not needed.
Don’t just take my word for it: look for evidence in the world’s longest-living people.
People in the world’s Blue Zones, the places in the world with the highest life expectancy, don’t lift weights, run marathons, or go to the gym.
Instead, they live in environments that constantly push them to move without even thinking about it. That means they garden, walk around all day, and minimize mechanical conveniences for housework and yard work.
In fact, Blue Zones researchers have determined that routine natural movement is one of the most powerful ways to increase life expectancy and a common habit among the world’s longest-living populations.
Of course, this may not seem realistic in our current knowledge economy, where we are often stuck at a desk and in front of a computer screen all day.
Moving naturally throughout the day may seem pleasant and romantic, but the reality is that 100 years ago only 10% of us had sedentary jobs, compared to 90% today.
However, there are still easy ways to add more movement to your busy lifestyle.
One of the best ways to do this is to use an active mode of transportation. This could mean taking your kids to school, walking or biking to the grocery store, a friend’s house, or out to dinner.
Ideally, you can also walk or bike to work (or walk or bike to the bus or train station if that’s more feasible).
Research shows that the best commute you can have is a 15-minute walk each way, but any physical activity built in along the way is a plus. On the other hand, the daily car commute is the second thing Americans hate the most on a daily basis, after housework (but maybe housework would be more enjoyable if you remembered the natural movement that prolongs life!).
If active transportation isn’t possible in your community, you can still find time to go for a walk.
A recent study from the American Cancer Society found that walking six hours a week resulted in a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer than not being active. But research has also shown that walking for up to two hours a week can lower your risk of disease and help you live longer.
Walking is also a great remedy for your mind. A daily walk can reduce the risk of dementia by 40%, according to Anders Hansen, a doctor and specialist in psychiatry at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
If long walks aren’t your thing, break them up by taking several smaller walks a day (five minutes per hour).
Make sure to stand at your desk, or at least get-up and move around regularly throughout the day. Go outside at lunchtime to get some fresh air.