Spring is a glorious time of year. The Southern Hemisphere tilts further towards and days get warmer. It’s a time of bud burst, as new leaves and fruit sprout from plant and tree.
But of course, what we mean by ‘Spring’ depends on where you live. It’s not necessarily even one season, but several – something Aboriginal and Torres and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long known.
Many Australians notice something troubling is in the air in Spring. Pollen and nectar are loved and hated by those with and without hay fever. But it’s not just that. There’s something else.
The earth rotates at 460 meters per second. And at this time of year, your life can feel like they're approaching a similar speed. For one reason or another, everything needs to be done by year's end. With warmer days comes more sun. Amidst the clamour, you decide it’s time to get fit. But you're so busy you have less and less time to do it.
But fear not, there is an answer. No matter where you live, there’s a way to get exercise in, even if you think you can’t. Whether you’re off to work, study or busy looking after loved ones, there are ways to work exercise into your daily commute.
The answer is incidental exercise. In essence, this is physical activity that isn't just exercise. Instead, it's part of your daily routine. The idea is that getting fitter is cumulative, adding up smaller chunks of exercise throughout your day and week. Exercise is valuable even if you can't get in 30 minutes or more in one go.
By doing this, you can do the recommended level of exercise without thinking about it too much.
Australians are addicted to driving. Across our biggest cities more than two thirds of commuters drive to work, but less than one in five use public transport.
If you drive to work, the idea of not taking your car might seem farcical. 'Nice idea', you'd say, 'but it's impractical'.
But what if you didn't drive all the way to work?
We all have a habit of trying to get as close as possible to our destination. This seems practical because we're busy. But is it really?
Think of driving to a shopping complex on a busy day. You'll see multiple vehicles circling the rows of parking spaces closest to the entrance. People (of which you might be one) will drive around for ages in the hope of getting a convenient parking space. But rows with plentiful parks lie just a short distance away.
Parking further away, gives you some incidental exercise, but may also save you time spent sitting your car waiting for a front-door carpark that may never materialise.
The same goes for work and school. Park further away and walk the remaining distance. Everyone wants to park as close as they can to their destination. But by doing something different you're avoiding gridlocked traffic as well as getting fitter.
Even if you're in the minority in Australia and take public transport to work, you can always end your ride a few stops early. Even a short walk can be valuable. But there's added incentive, especially if you live in a big city. It's tough finding space if you get on a tram, train, boat or bus when it's packed as tight as a can of tinned tuna. Spending time with your face only millimetres away from someone else's armpit is even tougher.
Considering this, why wouldn't you want to step off a few stops earlier? Granted, with a boat that's not much of an option. But once you get off you could take a slightly longer route to work instead?
Many of us know our well-practised routes. However, sometimes the best ones are right under our noses, but we don't even see them. Few of us cycle regularly, but here's every reason to. Governments nationwide are building more and more bike-friendly routes so it's worth checking out cycling routes near you.
Most cities have at least website with useful bike-path maps. What's more, some offer riding tips and courses too.
Buying a bike is a costly investment, but many cities have bike rental schemes. There are several in Sydney , and plenty of options in Canberra Perth and Brisbane. Plus there's Spinway in Darwin, Adelaide Free Bikes, Melbourne Bike Share and Hobart Bike Hire.
And don't forget app based schemes like Ready Go and oBike, which are rapidly spreading across the country. They offer greater flexibility than some schemes and may even mean you don't need to have your own a bike at all.
Some hire schemes are more cost-effective than others. But using services like these allow you to test the waters and see if cycling is for you. This can ultimately save you money. The last thing you want to do is invest money in a new bike and then leave it to gather dust and rust.
When it comes to incidental exercise, planning makes all the difference. If it's not easy to make part of your day you're less likely to stick to it. These maps and apps can help you.
A tried and true option that keeps getting better, Google Maps is continually improving its offering. It now includes specialist cycling information is available in beta form but also gives you topographical information so you know how hard your self-powered commute is.
Tripgo is a great option for incidental exercise. Select your destination and it will give you options that include public transport, hire and walking and cycling. You can also customise these options. If you're struggling for fitness, you can even limit how much walking is included in the transit options the app displays for you.
This app is not only free, it covers major cities, towns and many regional areas across Australia. You also get live service updates on disruptions and you can save your favourite stops. This way you’ve got the latest access to public transport information you need.
Download it from iTunes.
Commuting is a lonely exercise. So why not mix it up by joining a Heart Foundation Walking group to get some exercise outside of your busy day. After all, it's important to make time for you to get out and about, get fit and do something for yourself.