On New Year’s eve, we make all kinds of promises to ourselves. We’re going to be kinder, work harder, eat less, and spend more time with family. And, of course, we’re going to get into better shape. But when it comes to exercise, most of us have a hard time living up to our own good intentions. One of the biggest problems is finding time to work out, especially when we’re trying to maintain a career and an active social life.
So here’s an idea: Sneak some “hidden exercise” into what you’re already doing. Every time you stretch, or take a few extra steps, or lift something that weighs a couple of pounds, you’re actually doing exercise. It’s not hard to incorporate these mini-workouts into your daily activities.
Why not give it a shot? Try some of these suggestions that let you take advantage of your normal, everyday activities and make small strides toward being a healthier and fitter you.
Refuse the Elevator
For most of us, it’s practically automatic: If an elevator’s available, we’ll take it. But stairs offer repeated opportunities for exercise, if only for a minute or so at a time. Obviously, if you work on the 30th floor of a building, the stairs might not be practical. But if you constantly have to go between floors that are only a flight or two apart, then why not take walk? It might not be that easy at first, but after you’ve done it consistently for a few days, you’ll think nothing of shooting up a flight or two. Do the same thing when you’re at the mall or the airport, where you can bypass the escalators.
Turn your Cubicle into a Gym
There are all kinds of opportunities for hidden exercise while you’re at work. The simple act of stretching—your legs, your arms, your back—is great for your body. An added bonus: It will reduce your stress, too. So flex and relax your muscles throughout the day, whether you’re sitting at your desk or at a meeting. While you’re on a call, stand up and stretch, or lift a paperweight (or a five-pound weight or a can of soup). Above all, avoid being sedentary. Make yourself move around several times during the day, even if your job doesn’t require it.
Don’t wait for the good Parking Spots
It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? We’ll spend fifteen minutes circling the mall parking lot, waiting for that primo spot close to the entrance, when we could just accept a spot a bit farther away and actually get to our shopping faster. But time isn’t the only reason to park a few rows farther from Macy’s. If you can get into a habit of choosing parking spaces that aren’t quite as close to the store—even when the lot’s not full—you will easily and consistently get yourself a few extra minutes of walking. Of course, it’s important to be safe when you’re alone, especially at night, and there will be times when you’re in a hurry and can’t spare any extra time. But if you have an extra minute or two and can enjoy a nice, brisk stroll on your way to the entrance, take advantage of the opportunity to burn a few extra calories.
Pick up the Pace
One of the easiest ways to get some hidden exercise is to simply make yourself move more quickly. So when you’re going to your mailbox or up a flight of stairs, double-time it. Anytime you’re moving as part of your normal routine, push yourself to go a little faster than you normally would. You can do this when you’re walking, running your everyday errands, or even cleaning your house. Just challenge yourself to pick up the pace until you feel your heart rate rise and your muscles tighten a bit.
Watch TV Actively
Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s nice to veg on the couch and snack while we watch our favorite programs. But a good way to be less sedentary is to get up and move around while you watch. We’re not saying you need to lift weights or jog in place during Desperate Housewives, but get up and fold laundry, or dust the furniture, or simply walk around the living room. Again, the idea is to find ways to remain active, because every little bit helps.
Burn Social Calories
Think about what you do with your friends, and see if there are small changes you could make to get a little more activity into your lives. Instead of meeting for coffee, for example, you might go for a walk together. Or rather than going to a movie, think about renting bikes or playing tennis. The idea here isn’t to turn yourself into some sort of super athlete, but simply to make conscious decisions that will keep you moving instead of just sitting around.
Stay on the Lookout
Our last suggestion for hidden exercise is to be creative and watch for small steps you can take that will help you stay active, healthy, and happy. Watch for opportunities to lunge and stretch and flex. Keep your eyes open for ways you can walk a little more, breathe a little harder, and get a little stronger and healthier.
Whatever you do over and over during your normal day, use those activities to help you become as healthy and fit as possible. The beauty of hidden exercise is that it doesn’t cost you time or money, you don’t have to have the discipline to stick to a hard-core regimen, and over time it really does add up.