Are you one of the millions of Americans who makes a New Year’s resolution to exercise more — and then watch as the best of intentions falls to the wayside? If so, you’re not alone.
While the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) advise adults to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity (or about 20 minutes a day) plus two days of muscle-strengthening activity, the CDC estimates that nearly 80 percent of Americans don’t meet these recommendations. (1, 2)
Luckily, there’s a silver lining. A recent study in The Lancet found that just 15 minutes of exercise a week is enough to reduce mortality and increase life expectancy. (3) And while I still recommend adding more exercise to your routine when possible, let’s face it: While we can’t always carve out time in our busy schedules for a full-on workout session, each of us can find, at a minimum, those 15 minutes a week … and often several times a week.
Still dreading the idea of hitting the gym? I’ve collected some of my favorite exercise hacks to sneak more exercise into your day. These sneaky ways will have you and your family getting active in no time.
20 Hacks to Sneak More Exercise Into Your Day
1. Add interval workouts
Maximize your time and burn more calories with burst training. This method combines short bouts of high-intensity interval training exercise with recovery phases, helping you burn fat faster while improving cardiovascular fitness.
2. Explore your own town
Chances are, there are quite a few low-cost fitness activities where you live — and they don’t have to feel like work! Explore local hiking trails. Take a walk in a neighborhood you haven’t spent much time in. Try area pools, or see what fun fitness activities your community center might be hosting.
3. Switch up your commute
The average American spends 38 hours a year commuting to work. (4) So why not make your commute work for you? If you work in a city where you take public transportation to work, consider getting off the train or bus a stop early and walking a few extra minutes — after a few days, you won’t even notice the distance.
Are you lucky enough to live within walking or biking distance to work at least a few days a week? Trade your subway pass for comfy shoes and hit the pavement! In fact, commuting to work, separately from biking during leisure hours, has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease. (5) If driving is inevitable, try parking several blocks away or as far away from the entrance as you can in the parking lot.
4. Have walking meetings
Let’s face it: Meetings can be long, tedious and oftentimes unproductive. Give your team a breath of fresh air — literally — by instituting walking meetings. Take a brisk walk while you have weekly catchups or go over project logistics. You might even find new solutions to old problems; a recent study found that walking while talking can increase creativity by as much as 60 percent. (6)
5. Walk the dog
Instead of delegating walking the family pet to your children, start and end your day by taking Fido on a brisk stroll. Just 20 minutes of walking your dog can burn about 130 calories. Even better? Head to the dog park and toss a ball around, too.
6. Meet friends for workouts
You might be planning on squeezing in a workout, but then a friend you haven’t seen in a while invites you for happy hour. Instead of choosing between a social life and fitness, combine the two. Meet friends for a fitness class or a jog around the neighborhood instead of brunch or drinks. Not only will you get in quality time and a workout, but your wallet will thank you, too!
7. Take the stairs
Firm up your glutes and increase your heart rate throughout the day by nixing elevators and escalators and taking the stairs instead. Whether at the office or the shopping mall, you’ll be surprised by how quickly those extra flights of stairs add up throughout the day.
8. Get moving throughout the day
When most of us are obligated to be at our offices from 9 to 5 (or longer!), we have to make the most of our situations. Instead of writing a coworker an email or picking up the phone, walk to that person’s office and chat face to face. Take a walk at lunchtime instead of eating at your computer. These exercise hacks and their short distances really do add up to quite a few extra steps a week.
9. Keep the car in the garage
Running errands around town? Save on gas and walk or bike ride short distances instead.
10. Do vacations a different way
Stepping out of your daily routine doesn’t mean your workout plan has to fall to pieces. Skip the big-bus city tours and explore a new city by taking a walking tour instead. Seek out hotels with gyms or partnerships with local fitness centers.
Or plan a vacation around an activity you’ve been interested in. If you’ve been wanting to run a 10K, sign up for one in a city you’re excited to visit. Have you been wanting to work on your arm balances? Seek out a yoga retreat.
11. Schedule workouts
Scheduling things with a date and time — instead of tacking it on to a never-ending to-do list — is a more effective way of tackling projects. So schedule workouts and set an alarm for them the same way you would a meeting or dinner date.
12. Get the kids involved
One reason people often think they don’t have time for exercise is because they can’t get away from the children long enough to get a workout in. I say bring them along! Have your kids do a modified version of a HIIT workout DVD with you. Take them to the park to shoot hoops or play soccer. Beat the heat and go swimming together in the summertime.
Not only will you be spending precious time with your children, but they’ll also learn what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
13. Use social media to your advantage
Facebook is good for more than seeing what your old high school classmates are doing. Use your social networks to hold yourself accountable. You’ll be more likely to get up for that early morning run if you’ve posted about it the night before. You can also use it to recruit friends to join you on your fitness journey, whether through physical activity in real life or just cheering each other on.
14. Get fit while you watch TV
Instead of curling up on the couch with snacks while you clear out your DVR, use the time to squeeze in some exercise hacks. Bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, high knees, planks, pushups, crunches and more can all be done with zero equipment. Add some weights for even more of a burn.
15. Track your progress
If you’re someone who works best with visuals, investing in a pedometer might be for you. It’ll track your steps, show your day-to-day progress and encourage you to sneak in a few extra steps a day.
16. Make exercising fun
Turning exercise into a daily habit is difficult if you’re not having fun. Find the activities that you enjoy — don’t worry about what’s “trendy” or not. Whether it’s Pilates, skiing, running, hiking, swimming or something totally different, choosing workouts that you actually like makes all the difference; it doesn’t feel like exercise when you’re having a great time.
17. Try something new
But don’t limit yourself to just those exercise hacks that you’re familiar with. Try a new workout class, or join your friend in that crazy color race. While every workout might not be your favorite, you just might find something different you like — and it’ll keep your muscles guessing.
18. Keep it cheap
Working out doesn’t have to be expensive. Workout DVDs and YouTube videos are great ways to add variety to your routine and usually require little to no equipment. From Pilates to cardio workouts to strength training, you can find a video or channel that fits your interests.
19. Set a goal
When you’re working toward something in particular, it’s easier to stay motivated. Have you wanted to start logging more miles? Sign up for a local race to ensure you hit the track. Do you want to build up to arm balances in your yoga practice? Commit to spending a few minutes a day doing pushups to build strength. It’ll feel that much sweeter when you reach your goal — and then set a new one!
20. Use an app for that
Is there anything smartphones can’t do? Put yours to work with a fitness tracker — use interval timer alarms to get in short exercise bouts throughout the day, download apps with dedicated workouts or clock miles as you run from zombies.
Adding a little more exercise to your daily lifestyle doesn’t have to be a chore or boring. With these 20 exercise hacks, you’ll be feeling fitter and reaching the recommended amount of weekly exercise in no time!