As someone who works in front of a computer, I thoroughly understand the challenges involved in staying fit and healthy when you sit in a chair all day. And anybody who looks at a screen for hours at a time knows it's exhausting. At the end of work I often have no desire to drive to the gym, change my clothes, workout for at least a half an hour, then get in my car and drive home. It just seems like too much work.  

Push that attitude aside. Here are three things to try if you want to be healthier and more fit, but don't have hours a week (or the mental motivation) to exercise.

1. Sauna bathing

Some people find saunas to be relaxing. Others feel claustrophobic in temperatures which can reach more than 190 degrees Fahrenheit. But what many people don't understand about enduring this kind of heat stress is that it elevates your heart rate, often to the same level as you'd get doing moderate-intensity exercise.

A couple of Finnish studies have been conducted which have shown the positive effects of spending time in extremely high heat. In one, 16 male subjects between 20 and 23 years old took three 15-minute saunas with a two-minute break in between every day or every other day for 10 sessions. Afterward, researchers found the young men to have a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (that's the bad kind). In another larger study which tracked 2,315 middle-aged men for five years, researchers found that the men who took saunas more frequently had lower risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease and dying from any cause.

2. A few minutes of bodyweight exercises anywhere there's space and privacy

After doing an experiment to see how long it would take her to do 105 pushups, bodyweight squats and crunches (only five minutes and 54 seconds), writer and coach Kori D. Miller set off on a mission to do 1,000 pushups in a day--and succeeded. Forget about that crazy number and contemplate her first steps: In less than six minutes she pulled off more bodyweight training than most people achieve in a day. And if she can do it, so can most of the rest of us.  

Clearly, you don't want to be doing pushups in your cubicle as coworkers walk by, but if there's a conference room not being used you could close the door and do a two-minute wall squat (a very quiet exercise), or 50 push-ups or sit-ups.

3. A bit of deprivation

Recently I did a two-day water-only fast. My motivation came from a Tim Ferriss Show podcast featuring Dr. Rhonda Patrick during which she talked about 100 things that were way over my head, in spite of the reality that I'm a pretty health-minded person. I was particularly interested in the studies she discussed regarding water-only fasting for four or five days (consult a health provider before trying it). Specifically, she said this kind of prolonged fasting radically increases the body's ability to clear away damaged cells, the self-destruction of damaged cells as well as the production of stem cells. Even so, she believes shorter duration fasts, like the one I did, are still good for a person.

If cellular growth and regeneration isn't something you're interested in, just know that some experts believe that willpower--such as the kind necessary to only drink water for two days--is like a muscle which can be trained to be stronger. According to the American Psychological Association, researchers have found a few things to be true about willpower, which it defines as "the ability to resist short-term gratification in pursuit of long-term goals or objectives:"

  • People with strong willpower tend to have better grades, greater self-esteem, fewer problems with substance abuse, increased financial security and better health
  • Willpower can become fatigued with overuse and repeatedly resisting things weakens your ability to withstand future temptations
  • However, effective tactics for maintaining self-control include avoiding temptation in the first place and making "if-then" plans such as "if I go to this party and someone offers me a drink I will ask for cranberry juice and soda"
  • Instead of trying to tackle many resolutions at once, people have more success focusing on exerting willpower in one area at a time
  • And just like muscles get stronger with regular exercise, a practice of exerting self-control may improve willpower strength over time

Given these findings, which one habit of willpower can you start to adopt in your daily routines? Would you have more success in life if you resolved to get out of bed 15 minutes earlier every day? Or what if you made it a habit to engage in deep breathing for 10 minutes before you start your day? These are just two things highly successful people often do. While they may sound simple, they also necessitate willpower.

Published on: Feb 10, 2019