THE BLOG
01/13/2014 01:23 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2014

Move More -- All Day -- To Get Fit

Co-authored by Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, co-author of The Exercise Cure, by Rodale, 2013.

One of the more interesting insights in The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner -- a book about the world's longest-living sub-populations -- is physical activity is built into the everyday activities of long-living people.

This may seem like an obvious point: Of course exercise is associated with longevity. But exercise isn't just a priority for people who live a long time -- it's part and parcel of everyday living. Maybe it should be for the rest of us as well.

I find it interesting that when my clients go on vacation -- and, almost inevitably, fall off the "formal exercise" and the "strict diet" wagon in the process -- they sometimes come back in better shape than when they left. When I quiz them about what they were doing on vacation that might have trumped the brilliant and well-thought-out fitness plan I've given them, inevitably it involves movement, and lots of it: sightseeing, shopping, hiking, scurrying here and here, from one event to another, often for eight or more hours a day.

Contrasted with their desk-bound lives at home, many of these peoples' vacation schedules resemble an Olympic athlete's training schedule -- gym or no gym!

These people aren't "exercising more." They've simply gone to a new environment where they needed to move a lot to get through their day. And they were fitter for it.

I'm not saying you should cancel your gym membership and sightsee your life away (if only we could). Formal exercise is still the most convenient, effective choice for busy people.

But I am pointing out that a walk up the stairs here, a stroll down the block there, things that many people consider meaningless movement, can have serious ramifications for your health, well-being, and bodyweight. Probably a lot more than you think. Getting more informal moving into our days perhaps the most overlooked -- yet absolutely essential -- part of the health and fitness equation. Especially when you consider the oft-reported dangers of sitting.

How to do that? Take a look at your day-to-day activities and ask how you might build more movement into your life. Could you walk to the grocery store once or twice a week? Could you place a laptop on a cabinet and stand while writing? Could you go see your co-worker instead of texting or emailing? Could you meet a friend for a walk instead of a baguette and coffee? Like an investment account with compounding interest, these humble, age-old fitness tips can pay enormous dividends in the long-term. And in the short-term, they'll stave off common sitting-related ailments like stiffness, back pain -- even a lousy mood.

This is not to say don't avail yourself of conveniences or indulgences (everyone loves baguettes). But, whenever possible, to stand up, make like a blue-zoner, and move.