10 Ways to Stay Active without Exercise

exercise without working outMost adults spend the majority of their waking hours either sitting or performing low-intensity activities.[1] Experts say that prolonged, sedentary behaviors such as watching TV, playing computer or console games, working at your home or office desk, and riding in automobiles increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death, even if you exercise regularly.[2]

To Gym or Not to Gym?

Although joining a gym is certainly an option, many people cringe at the thought of being anywhere near a formal exercise program. If this sounds familiar, you’ll be pleased to know that there are ways you can stay physically active without really exercising.

Ready to get started? Consider incorporating the following 10 suggestions into your daily life to improve your health and level of fitness:

  1. Choose your parking space wisely – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled into a parking lot and witnessed people waiting in their cars for 20 minutes just to get a parking space closest to the entrance. Parking your car away from the entrance forces you to walk a little farther to get to where you want to go. Over time, this adds up to extra calories being burned, and a more physically fit body.
  1. Take the stairs, not the elevator – While it may be tempting to ride the elevator, taking the stairs burns far more calories than the elevator or escalator. It may be challenging at first, but if possible, take the stairs, even if you must start slowly, one flight at a time.
  1. Stand more, sit less – Although the number of calories an average person burns an hour depends upon factors such as height, weight, sex, and age, it’s clear that standing burns more calories than sitting on the couch. What’s more, pacing, marching in place, or stretching while you stand is even more beneficial. Try replacing prolonged sitting with intermittent standing when you’re watching TV, talking on the telephone, or reading the newspaper.
  1. Tidy up during TV time – Hate commercials? Why watch them? If your house is a bit out of sorts, get up between television commercials and start cleaning, one piece of clutter at a time.
  1. Use a pedometer to monitor your steps – A pedometer is a small device that’s attached to a belt or article of clothing during the day to keep track of how many steps you take. Research suggests that, along with setting a daily goal, using one of these handy devices motivates people to walk more.[3]
  1. Replace your chair with an exercise ball – Have you seen those oversized exercise balls? According to the New York Times, they’re becoming a popular alternative to office chairs. Although the benefits they instill are modest,[4] some say they increase calorie burn, improve posture, and strengthen core trunk muscles.
  1. Adopt a dog – If you’re lacking in friends who share your enthusiasm for physical activity, why not adopt a dog from your local shelter? According to Psychology Today, taking your pooch pal on a daily walk is not only great exercise, it boosts motivation, decreases stress, lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease, decreases loneliness, and increases well-being.[5]
  1. Don’t just stand there, cook – Have you ever been caught preparing green beans for the stove while sitting and watching TV? If you’re goal is to move more, don’t sit down during food preparation or cooking; pace, stretch, bend, and reach for a healthier, happier you.
  1. Dance more, drink less – Instead of inviting friends out for coffee or cocktails, why not take them dancing? Whether a formal dance class or a disco night on the town, kicking up your heels is not only good exercise, it’s a blast!
  1. Play in the water – If you hate to swim laps you’re not alone. Being in the water should be all about having fun and getting your exercise groove on. Water volleyball – Frisbee – kick-boarding across the pool – water play is a far better alternative, fun and health-wise, than swimming laps.

[1] Owen, Neville et al. “Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 38.3 (2010): 105–113. PMC. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

[2] Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, Bajaj RR, Silver MA, Mitchell MS, et al. “Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Ann Intern Med. 2015;162:123-132. doi:10.7326/M14-1651.

[3] Cassoobhoy, Arefa MD, MPH. “10k Steps a Day: A Realistic Goal?” WebMD. October 16, 2014.

[4] O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Replacing Your Desk Chair With an Exercise Ball can Improve Your Posture.” New York Times. Health. September 20, 2010.

[5] Andrews, Linda Wasmer.Dog Walking Has Psychological Benefits for You.” Psychology Today. Published online April 16, 2014.

by Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


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