12 ways to exercise without going to the gym

Physical activity is good for your body and mind, but it’s hard to find time to exercise when you’re busy. And not everyone likes to go to the gym. As a result, less than a quarter of U.S. adults get the exercise they need. If you’re trying to be more active, it’s time to change the way you think about what qualifies as exercise. Here are some tips to help you get fit without setting foot on a treadmill or picking up a dumbbell.

Discover creative ways to stay active

Everyone is different, and the kinds of activities that are right for you depend on your personal preferences and level of mobility. In the end, the best fitness program is one you actually do.

  1. Get moving. One of the easiest ways to add physical activity to your day is to simply move. Tap your toes to music. Bounce your leg. Get up and sit back down. Pace around your office or kitchen. You can burn up to 350 calories per day by fidgeting. Every additional step or movement counts.
  2. Meet up with a friend. Rather than getting together at your regular coffeeshop, suggest something active. Go for a bike ride, toss a Frisbee in the park, or play a round of mini golf.
  3. If you’re both into music, get together for a jam session and reap the health benefits of playing a musical instrument. In addition to being a great workout, playing instruments can strengthen your fingers, arms, and shoulders and improve your posture.

  4. Throw a dance party with your kids. If making music isn’t your thing, cue up your favorite playlist and bust a move to the beat. Dancing tones your body and keeps you physically fit. It also elevates your heart rate and burns calories in a way that doesn’t feel like exercise.
  5. Wheelchair dancing is a form of creative expression that allows you to showcase your rhythm and cultivate a sense of joy. Styles of wheelchair dance include ballroom, line dancing, contemporary, and hip-hop.

  6. Go for a walk. Walking is an easy way to exercise. In addition to supporting your overall well-being, walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can help protect your heart, build muscle, boost your endurance, and strengthen your bones. If you’re pressed for time, even a 10-minute brisk walk—or a quick stroll when you’re on the phone—delivers health benefits. Every step counts.
  7. Apart from comfortable apparel, the only equipment you need is a good pair of walking shoes.

  8. Take the road less traveled. Consider taking an alternative route. At the office, skip the elevator and climb a few flights of stairs. It’s a great way to improve your heart health, tone your leg muscles, and burn calories.
  9. Biking to work will energize your day and help you save money on fuel. If you prefer to take the bus or subway, exit one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work. At the grocery store, park as far away from the entrance as you can.

  10. Get a standing desk. Sitting all day is bad for your health. Ask your workplace for a desk that allows you to switch between sitting and standing so you can be on your feet more often. If your work involves a lot of meetings, switch things up and have a walking meeting from time to time.
  11. Try sitting exercises. If you have limited mobility or are required to stay seated at work, chair exercises can help you stay fit.
  12. You can even exercise while lying on your couch in front of the TV. Lie flat on your back with your legs extended and squeeze the muscles in your thighs for 10 seconds. Repeat this several times. Raising your leg while lying flat builds your abs and strengthens your hip muscles.

  13. Play fitness video games. Gaming is incredibly popular among people of all ages, and advances in technology offer a wide range of possibilities when you’re living with a physical disability. Adaptive controllers and accessible software allow you play games online, engage with other players, and experience virtual reality.
  14. Grow a garden. Gardening is a therapeutic activity that helps you feel connected to nature. Anyone with a green thumb knows how physically demanding planting, weeding, and watering can be.
  15. If you have a physical disability or limited mobility, raised beds, adaptive gardening tools, and accessible pathways allow you to participate fully in this activity.

  16. Practice yoga. Practicing yoga can build strength and flexibility while improving balance and mindfulness. Yoga is also one of many relaxation techniques that can help reduce stress. Adaptive yoga modifies poses and practices for those with different abilities.
  17. If you don’t have a yoga mat, spread a thick towel or a blanket on the floor while you do yoga.

  18. Engage in bodyweight exercises. Jumping jacks, burpees, planks, push-ups, squats, lunges, and other bodyweight exercises are a great way to improve your flexibility and build muscle strength. No special equipment is required, and you can do them anywhere.
  19. If you haven’t been active in a while, ask your doctor what type of bodyweight exercises might be right for you. Be sure to warm up and pay attention to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, take a break.

  20. Clean the house. Housekeeping chores that get you moving are good for your heart. Burn calories and get a workout in as you dust furniture, mop and vacuum floors, fold laundry, and wash the dishes. A clean house can also help keep allergens in check.

Enjoy the health benefits of regular physical activity

Getting the recommended amount of exercise can protect your heart and help you maintain a healthy weight. Physical activity also boosts your immune system and increases the production of endorphins, which help improve your mood.

If you’re too busy to work out or don’t like going to the gym, there are all kinds of ways to sneak fitness into your daily routine. Be sure to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider to determine which activities are right for you.