WHEN we moved to rural Kildare I thought our lifestyle would be so much healthier than living in Dublin. No, there wasn’t a gym nearby, but with all that fresh air and beautiful countryside to explore, we would be striding across the fields embracing the outdoors at every opportunity… wouldn’t we?

Well, er, no. The fact is, six years and three babies later, we get in the car for everything. I envy my urban friends: there’s no strolling to the shops for milk or hopping on our bikes to visit a friend for us. Country lanes are way too dangerous, especially if you’re pushing a buggy or have a baby in a seat on your bike.

Also, have you ever tried a long country walk with three small children? The eldest moans about her legs, the middle one has a sit-down protest, complete with earpiercing screams of ‘carry me!’, and the toddler stops to look at every piece of ‘peep poo’. It’s stressful and no way to spend an afternoon.

HSE guidelines suggest 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity, five days a week, to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer, as well as maintain a healthy weight. I’d like to add that it also does wonders for your mental health, too.

This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym every day – incidental exercise, the exercise we get from daily activities, without even thinking about it, is the key to long-term health.

Small tweaks to your lifestyle can make a huge difference, no matter where you live. So here’s my list of incidental exercise – ways to raise your heart rate, move your body and feel healthier and happier. And best of all, they’re free!

TAKE THE STAIRS From offices to train stations and shopping centres, ignore lifts and escalators. Take the stairs – and take them two at a time, if you can.

LIMIT CAR USE Before you pick up your car keys, ask yourself if you really need to drive, whether it’s running errands or going to dinner. If you do, don’t spend time looking for the ‘perfect parking spot’ . Park further away and give yourself a walk.

COMMUTE SMART On the train or bus? Get off one stop earlier. And on the subject of work, make sure you take a break. If you leave a few chores to do at lunchtime, you’ll escape the office, lower stress levels and also get a fitness boost.

DRESS FIT I’m a big fan of trainers and stretchy trousers when I’m not at work – and I have my runners in my bag at all times. I know I walk quicker and further when my feet are comfortable, and by wearing yoga leggings at home I’m much more likely to be active with the kids, whether we’re outside kicking a ball around or doing a few stretches while we do a puzzle on the floor.

BABYSIT If you don’t have young children, borrow some! Babysit or look after your grandchildren, they will have you on running around all day.

CLEAN UP Take a different attitude to cleaning. Dusting, tidying and ironing burn around 170 calories an hour while more vigorous chores such as vacuuming and scrubbing burn around 190 calories. Think of cleaning as a workout -move quicker, engage your core and don’t break – and you’ll tone up at the same time.

THE GREEN GYM Gardening is the ultimate mind-body workout. Not only can you burn up to 300 calories doing 30 minutes of digging, pruning and mowing (that’s similar to an aerobics class) but it’s extremely soothing for the soul.

STAND MORE When you’re on the phone or texting, pace up and down. It’s easy once you’re in the habit.

As for me, I’ve bought a fold-up bike. This summer, I’ll be parking out of town and cycling some of my commute in a bid to subtly slip in a little extra exercise – and give me some extra head space, too.

If you have a question email janine@thisisyoga.ie. Follow This Is Yoga on Facebook and Instagram; thisisyoga.ie

Published in the Irish Daily Mail, May 8