When your to-do list is filled with obligations, it’s easy to move fitness to the very bottom of the list. You’ll definitely go to the gym—right after you finish this project, complete that deadline and visit your sick sister-in-law. And suddenly, it’s time for bed and you didn’t even fit a walk in today—yet again.
Don’t stress about lost time; instead, get smarter about incorporating a little more movement into your day-to-day activities. None of these moves will cause you to break a sweat—but all of them can help you move toward a healthier, fitter lifestyle where you can check "exercise" off your to-do list every day.
Your office might not provide treadmill desks (yet!), but there are certain exercises you can do throughout the workday to help build fitness and strength. Contracting specific muscle groups mimics the action performed by your muscles when lifting weights, but can be done anytime, even during meetings without your co-workers noticing!
"Try sucking in your lower abs (just above the belt), and then continue to your middle and upper abs, holding for one full minute," recommends Valerie Orsoni, a wellness coach in San Francisco. She also recommends squeezing your glutes continuously while talking on the phone to build muscle while you sit.
Create associations between typical workplace behaviors and specific fitness moves to cue you to move, recommends Stephanie Mansour, a certified personal trainer and life coach in Chicago. "Do shoulder rolls every time you hang up your phone to relieve tension headaches and help keep your shoulders and upper back relaxed," she says. "If you can remember to do little things throughout the day to wake up your muscles and get your body moving, then you may be more motivated to take it one step further and log a gym session."
Walking is another sneaky fitness strategy that works at the office. By walking over to talk to your co-worker rather than emailing her, you’ll reap the benefits of an uncluttered inbox and a little extra motion. And if you can’t fit in a walking lunch break, suggest a walking or standing office meeting to your colleagues. "You’ll get in some extra steps, and people tend to not drone on when they have to stand or walk," notes Pamela Hernandez, an ACSM certified personal trainer and ACE health coach in Springfield, Missouri. "You’ll end up having shorter and more productive meetings."
If you work at a job where you already spend time standing or walking around, you might focus on regular stretch breaks and maintaining good posture while you’re on the clock.
Grocery shopping is a necessary chore for most of us, but instead of wishing you were elsewhere, make the most of it. Elect to carry a basket instead of getting a cart—or, better yet, pick up two baskets when you enter the store. You’ll have to put down and pick up at least one of the baskets each time you take something off the shelf. Use your knees to lift the baskets for a stronger back and to tone your arms.
As you’re checking out, stand on one leg to practice balance and engage your core and glutes. "Your glutes are your biggest stabilizer muscles, and the simple act of balancing your body on one leg is a great way to engage them," Hernandez notes.
Keep the workout going all the way out to your car with Orsoni’s method of carrying grocery bags with your arms at a 90-degree angle, elbows glued to your trunk, to help your biceps gain definition.
Try taking your lifestyle exercises on the road with you for anytime you have a free moment. Stretch or do calf raises by rising up on the ball of one or both feet while waiting to cross the street or for your kettle to boil, or while brushing your teeth. Do standing push-ups against the wall while waiting in line (keep hands close together and press your body toward the wall as if doing a vertical push-up), or buy a basic pedometer to count the number of steps you take each day. It’s motivating to see how the small steps you take each day can add up to major milestones.
"Lifestyle moves can be done anywhere," notes Marcey Rader, a NASM-certified personal trainer and certified productivity coach in Raleigh, North Carolina. "They aren’t enough to make you sweat in your work clothes, but they are enough to get your heart rate up a little bit and improve your fitness, even if only a little bit. Plus, it just clears your brain and makes you feel better!"