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Taking the Stairs:

50 Tiny Habits


On a sliding scale of the ways I like to spend my time, exercising ranks somewhere slightly above mopping the floor and far, far below anything to do with a book.

I simply do not like to exercise. I have tried several dozen activities over the years, and there have been a few that have kept me engaged for a season: yoga, horseback riding, jogging. But nothing that has become a lifelong passion that inspires me to get up and use my body regularly.

I have tried hiring trainers. Having someone right there with a whip and a chair telling you want to do next was helpful. But it is expensive. And frankly, I’d rather buy books with that money.

Nowadays, we have a dog. She has saved me from myself, as I can’t look into her big pitiful eyes and refuse to take her for a walk. Her excitement about the whole experience is the motivation that gets me into my bright pink sneakers and out the door almost every morning. But that mile or so, while better than nothing, is a pretty limited amount of activity for someone who sits at a desk to write (or somewhere more comfortable to read) most days.

And I feel this low-grade guilt about it a lot of the time. I know I should be doing more, I know how important it is for my overall health, blah, blah, blah. Yes, yes. All of that is absolutely true. But I obviously suffer from a disconnect between what is true and what I am willing to actually put into practice. Along with a zillion other people. Sigh.

Over the past few years I have learned to appreciate how small efforts really can add up to a huge impact over time. This applies to many, if not all areas of life. So I decided to think about how I could apply it to adding more activity into my routine.

Creating little micro-habits that add movement to your days may not seem like much. But together they can add up! And they may be more sustainable for me than a gym membership.

If you have trouble staying with an exercise regimen, or struggle like I do with the whole enterprise, hopefully some of these ideas will work for you, too!

I may still go back to the gym one day, or try some other new activity (paddleboarding, anyone?). But in the meantime, I plan to incorporate as many of these ideas into my routine as I can. I’m sure my body will thank me.

First thing in the morning:

1. Do some stretches in bed before you get up.

2. As soon as your feet hit the floor, do some sun salutations.

3. Do squats, lunges & calf raises while you are brushing your teeth. (It should take 2 minutes, after all!)

4. Do a few wall or counter pushups while waiting for the coffee to perk.

5. Walk one extra block when you walk the dog (or without a dog!).

When out and about:

6. Park on the other side of the parking lot.

7. Walk up the steps on the escalator.

8. Go up and down every aisle in the grocery store (or any store!) for extra steps. Pick up the pace on the aisles where you don’t need anything.

9. Return your cart (and maybe someone else’s!) to the corral for extra steps.

10. Stand on one leg or do calf raises while waiting in line.

11. If you have to wait, to pick up a prescription, for a dr appointment, stand or walk around instead of sitting.

12. Engage your abs when you are stopped at a stoplight.

13. Take the stairs (even if it is only on the way down!).

14. After eating out, take the time to walk around for a few minutes.

While you are working:

15. Walk around while you talk on the phone. Or at least stand.

16. Purchase a standing desk. (The hubs loves his!)

17. Sit on a Pilates ball while at your desk

18. Do some shoulder rolls and overhead stretches while you are thinking at your computer.

19. Or get up and walk around your desk or office while you are thinking.

20. Instead of sending an email, get up and go talk to a coworker in person.

21. Stand for your Zoom meetings.

22. When you are an attendee but not a participant in a Zoom meeting, do some lunges or squats while you listen.

23. Do a few squats before you actually sit down in your chair to start working.

24. Walk up and down the stairs a few times on your lunch break. (Or out to your car and back.)

Around the house:

25. Touch your toes, do some side bends and reach for the sky a few times while you wait for the microwave.

26. Take the dog for a short second walk each evening. (She will thank you!)

27. Make a point to get down on the floor at least once a day: stretch, meditate, clean out a cabinet, get something from under the bed, play with your pet or kids.

28. Go out of your way to go up and down the stairs as often as possible

29. Put a set of hand weights in the kitchen and do a few bicep curls or overhead presses while you wait for the timer to go off on dinner.

30. Walk some laps while in the pool. (The water creates good resistance.)

31. Put on some music and have a little solo dance party while you fix dinner.

32. When standing in a doorway do a chest opening stretch.

33. Don’t try to be so efficient when picking up around the house, make multiple trips across the house, up & down the stairs to put things away, etc.

34. Don’t try to carry shopping bags in all at once. See how many trips back and forth to the car you can make to add extra steps to your day.

35. Stand while you fold the laundry.

36. Be the one who bags up and takes out the garbage.

While watching tv:

37. Do ankle, wrist and neck rotations, right on the sofa.

38. Sit on the floor and stretch.

39. During commercial breaks, do a few yoga poses or body weight exercises.

40. Lunge your way to the bathroom or kitchen for a drink.

41. Use a foam roller to roll out stiff muscles.

42. Use a grip strengthener for a hand workout.

43. Try a wall sit.

44. So some praying hand stretches.

Right before bed:

45. Do some careful stretching in the shower.

46. Walk around the house and check every door one last time. (Even if you know they are all locked.)

47. Practice balancing on one leg (tree pose) while you brush your teeth.

48. Actively engage your core while washing & rinsing your face.

49. Fall into a forward bend and stretch your back before getting into bed.

50. Do some neck stretches before turning out the light.

You might dislike exercise as much as I do…

But if we are totally honest with ourselves, adding these little micro-habits into our day isn’t really that much of a strain. The hardest part might be remembering.

So I will be using my good friend, Mr. Sticky-Note, to jog my memory around the house and all the places I need to make an effort to move a little bit more.

Remember (& I’ll remind myself, too), every tiny consistent effort adds up over the long haul. We CAN be more intentional about moving our body!


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