5 easy ways for seniors to sneak in physical activity

Staying physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Walking, even at a moderate pace, can help you maintain a healthy weight, better your cardiovascular function, regulate your blood glucose levels and retain muscle mass that's crucial for both your metabolism and strength. Physical activity isn't just good for your body; it can also be great for your mind. Exercise has been shown to buoy mood, increase optimism and keep depression at bay.

No wonder doctors put exercise front and center when discussing healthy living with their patients. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommended that older adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. But hitting the gym isn't the only way to incorporate more activity into your day. Here are five ways to sneak in a bit of movement—no gym membership or fancy cardio equipment required.

1. Walk and Talk One surefire way to make sure you stretch your legs regularly: Every time your phone rings, stand to answer it. Then go for a stroll while chatting with the friend or family member on the other line. For a short conversation, that might mean strolling around your living room. For a longer chat, you might head outdoors to make a leisurely lap around the block. Keep in mind that you don't have to break a sweat or power walk to reap the benefits of physical activity. Every bit of movement counts.

Getting outside with your grandkids can benefit you, too. Getting outside with your grandkids can benefit you, too.

2. Play With Your Grandkids The next time your grandkids visit, why not swap your usual board games or story time for a bit of physical play? For younger kids, you could suggest building a fort and help them pull all the pillows and blankets into the living room before crawling underneath your creation. For older kids, you might want to opt for an outing to a museum or play space. By incorporating your grandkids into your physical activity, you'll also be setting a great example for them to get and stay active.

3. Lend a Hand Sometimes sneaking in more physical activity is as simple as volunteering to help a friend. If a neighbor has a dog, you might offer to take the pooch for a walk once a week to give her a break or accompany her in the mornings to help mix up her routine. Or if a friend is headed out of town to visit family, suggest that you swing by to water her plants and collect her mail while she's gone. The extra effort will have a double benefit: helping someone who needs it while boosting your own health.

4. Sweat Your Way to the Sofa We've all heard the classic advice that TV commercials are a great time to work up a sweat. But once you're comfy on the couch, who really wants to jump up? Instead, consider linking the TV to physical activity before you reach for the remote control and settle in to watch your favorite shows. Decide that for the next week you're going to do five minutes of activity, such as walking up a flight of stairs or making a lap around the block, before you settle down in front of your favorite show.

5. Put Online Shopping on Pause Sure, ordering everything from crackers to cardigans online is easy and convenient. But one thing that online shopping won't do is get your heart rate up or buoy your health. So if you have the time to spare, decide that you're going to put the laptop away and head to a brick-and-mortar store instead. While you browse the aisles, you'll be moving your legs (score!), and even a leisurely pace is better than not moving at all when you're parked in front of a computer. Want to squeeze in a bit more activity? Park farther from the store entrance or walk a lap around the block before heading inside.