Believe it or not, you don’t need to go to the gym to get fit.
Really, you don’t.
Going to the gym works for some people, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
Actually, many people HATE the whole gym scene. And I’m not so keen on it myself.
Firstly, it’s time-consuming.
Not being able to make time is a common excuse not to exercise and constraining yourself to only exercising at a gym compounds that problem. You’ve got to get to the gym (it might not be close by), get changed, warmed up, do whatever workout it is you do, cool down, shower and get home.
That’s 2 whole hours of your day just gone. Never to be seen again. Sorry, but life’s too short for that sh*t.
Secondly, it’s really over-priced. For many, gym membership is out of reach financially – it’s simply money that needs to be spent elsewhere.
I’m from a running background, so all that’s needed is a pair of trainers and some ground to run on, which I have found is generally abundant in most of the places I have lived to date. Paying to run indoors on a treadmill has always seemed both ridiculous and boring.
Lastly, the gym can feel like a very contrived environment, because, well, it just is. I prefer a bit more fresh air and a bit more scenery.
Sure, it can be amusing watching those ladies using that machine where you open and close your legs while posing for another check-me-out-at-the-gym-again Instagram selfie or watching the guys in that intimidating free-weights corner of the gym, admiring their biceps curl form in the mirror (while also taking that obligatory Instagram selfie), but a lot of us prefer to pass on that.
No disrespect to all you gym-freaks out there, but to my mind, there are much cheaper, more convenient and, arguably, more FUN ways to improve your cardio-fitness and get your body in shape.
There are actually almost limitless ways to burn some calories and tone your body and I share some of my faves on this site, but what I want to share with you here is our Top 20 ways to exercise opportunistically without going to the gym.
Yep, that’s right!
You don’t always have to schedule time for exercise. And even if you do, you can supplement that with some extra movement and activity throughout the day.
Of course, it is better to schedule time to run, swim, play tennis or however else you choose to exercise and studies will mostly support that exercising in this way is more effective on the whole.
But if you don’t feel that you have time to exercise (yes, the reality is, many of us do find it hard, especially with young children), or if you simply don’t want to, there are many ways you can exercise opportunistically to remain more active throughout the day.
Opportunistic exercising is really about adding more movement to your daily routine and breaking out of the sedentary-inducing habits that the convenience of modern life has brought with it. And don’t dismiss it as a waste of time – it all counts!
So, here we go . . .
1. Walk instead of driving/taking public transport
Walk to the local shop instead of driving. Get off the bus one stop early. Park your car further away from the office. Easy-peasy.
2. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or lift
It’s an obvious one, but how often do you consciously take the stairs over the lift or escalator? This is a great way to raise your heart rate and get a good leg workout without really trying.
3. Wall sit (static ski squat)
This can be done while reading, using your smart phone or watching tv. Feel the burn!
Watch how to do a wall sit below.
4. Calf raises while queuing
I do this one a lot. It’s less conspicuous than doing jumping jacks and burpees while waiting your turn at the checkout and you’ll be surprised how tiring it can be. Advanced calf-raisers can do one leg at a time.
Watch how to do calf raises below.
5. Step ups
If you have a step or two at home, step ups are a really good workout. I have a window seat under the bedroom window, which is a good height to use for these. Sometimes I’ll do sets and other times just throw in a few when I can throughout the day. To make it harder, grab a couple of dumb bells and hold them by your waist while you do it. I used to use hold my kids, but they’re getting a bit heavy now. 🙂
Watch how to do step ups below.
6. Sit ups/crunches & back raises
You can do these at home while watching tv. Remember that if you do sit ups and crunches, you should also work out your back too. Otherwise, you will start seeing muscle imbalances that can lead to poor posture and injury.
7. Squat jumps
Another one that is easy to do at home while reading, watching tv or even cleaning your teeth (without the jump though!)
Watch how to do squats below.
8. Tricep Dips
Use a chair, bench or the sofa. I use the window seat and sometimes the edge of the bath.
Watch how to do tricep dips below.
Again – can be done while watching TV. See, you don’t have to give up your programmes in order to get fit!
Watch how to do lunges properly below.
10. Run around with the kids/the dog
My kids have me running around after them all the time. Beats sitting in front of the laptop!
Make your home look nicer and get some health benefits too!
Turn up your favourite tunes and dance while you’re cleaning and when no-one is looking.
13. Walking meetings with colleagues
Who says you need an office and a desk and chair to hold a meeting? If it’s a nice day, why not make the most of it and get outside? Walk and talk and get the blood circulating. It might even get the creative juices flowing.
14. Work standing up
Sit less and use standing desks if you can. Okay, it’s not a real workout, but it is much better for your back and sitting has been revealed to be the new smoking. Get away from your desk and walk around the office every 45 minutes.
15. Hand wash your car
You can probably do a better job than the guys at the valet service anyway. Plus you save money and get some free exercise in the process.
16. Chin ups/pull ups
You can buy an indoor chin up bar that you can install in one of your door frames. Every time you go past it, do a few chin ups or pull ups!
For an explanation of the difference between the two and how to do them, watch these two mean-looking dudes here.
18. Exercise Bands
Exercise bands, resistance bands or Therabands are often recommended by physiotherapists to help with rehabilitation, but they also make for damn good workouts generally.
An army training classic. Dissed by a few fitness trainers, but usually without any real justification other than because they are just trying to sell their own fitness system.
For me, burpees are a brilliant all-round exercise and, if executed correctly, they make for a killer workout that can be done almost anywhere – except, perhaps, in the checkout queue. Stick to calf raises there.
Watch how to do them properly here.
If you are out of shape and getting fit again seems a bit daunting, remember that incremental efforts can make a huge difference over time and using opportunistic exercise on a daily basis is a great way to start.
One part is forming the habit and the other part is getting your body to adapt to new stresses. Start small and build up. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you will adapt and you’ll feel better for it!
Always remember to get checked by a physician before embarking on intensive exercise programmes.