31 Sneaky Ways to Work Out—Without Hitting the Gym
By Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal
No more excuses! With a little creativity, you can get in great shape without ever setting foot in the gym.
As our lives get busier and careers get more demanding, seeing the inside of a gym can feel about as likely as finding a way to clone yourself to get everything done. But that doesn't excuse you from not working out at all. In fact, it's easier than you think to work out on the go or even when you're trying to decompress in front of the TV after a jam-packed day.
Don't believe us? We got trainers and fitness experts to weigh in on their best tricks, tips, and moves that require very little effort but promise big results—all without ever stepping foot inside a gym! Oh, and if you're wondering about that post-workout recovery drink—or just what to add to your morning smoothie for some protein—don't miss these Best and Worst Protein Powders!
Get a Timer
Yoga Instructor Karly Treacy recommends having a timer handy to set parameters when you're on a time crunch. "No matter how much time you have, if you work for one minute on and 15-30 seconds of active rest—depending on your fitness and energy level that day—you can give yourself a full body workout without leaving your house or hotel room! Getting your heart rate up for the minute of work, with minimal rest in between exercises, will burn calories and boost your metabolism. Exercises that recruit many muscle groups will strengthen and tone the whole body."
Invest in Resistance Bands
Whether you're traveling or need an easy way to stay in shape while logging in long hours at the office, certified personal trainer Jeff Grant says to get yourself some resistance bands. "You can train almost every major group with them and they can fit into any suitcase or even your carry-on."
Drop and Do Some Burpees
"One of my favorite workouts is [as many burpees as possible] as fast as possible, since any time you can ramp up the intensity of physical activity is time well spent. You can do this workout anywhere, and it's guaranteed to kick your butt," recommends Dave Colina, certified CrossFit trainer, Krav Maga instructor and founder of formula O2. For the unfamiliar, a burpee is a diabolical combination of a pushup quickly followed by a jump or jumping jack.
"Stand Out" at the Office
If you're really having trouble getting in any activity, there is an alternative: stand at your desk. "There's mounting research demonstrating the benefits of standing versus sitting. If you work in front of a computer all day, I highly recommend experimenting with a standing desk," says Colina. "At formula O2's headquarters, our office is outfitted with standing desk setups from Rogue Fitness or Oristand, and each cost less than $40. We have chairs for when people want to sit, but I'd be lying if I said they weren't uncomfortable on purpose."
Hit the Wall
Don't worry if burpees are too daunting; Colina has another easy way to fire up your glutes and activate your core. "Do 10 rounds of a 30-second wall sit followed by a 30-second plank. Make sure to maintain good form for a meaningful workout and to avoid injury," says Colina. "During the wall sit, keep your legs at a 90-degree angle so your thighs are parallel to the ground. While in plank, squeeze your abs and tighten your butt so that your back remains straight. If you notice your hips gravitating to the ground, it's time to take a break."
Get Creative With Your Surroundings
The hefty monthly fee of joining a gym is a legitimate reason not to go—but isn't an excuse to not workout. Especially if you have a chair, bed and suitcase in your home. Trainerize.com's Chris Doherty says you can easily make your surroundings your gym. "Even without free weights, even without the barbell, and even without your elliptical, you can still commit to a workout," he explains. "All you really need is some open space and a quit-proof attitude. If you do some bodyweight squats, some pushups, some mountain climbers, shoulder taps, side planks and burpees, you're working way harder than most people do at a $200/month gym."
Squeeze Those Thighs
If you do find that you're sitting quite a bit throughout the day, there's an easy way to take advantage says Alanna Zabel, star of the Element: Beginner Level Yoga DVD. "I use thigh bands while I am working and writing on my computer," she reveals. "Seize every moment because they all add up!"
Speaking of things that add up, sometimes they're not so good—like these 50 Little Things Making You Fatter and Fatter. You've been warned!
Use Your Body as the Ultimate Weight
Using your body as a weight means you never have to worry if you have the right equipment because you always have yourself around! "The great thing about bodyweight exercises is that no matter where you are at—work, home, hotel or outdoors—you are able to take bodyweight moves to such places and sweat it out," says Lisa Kinder, star of the 10 Minute Solution: High-Intensity Interval Training DVD. "Set the tone of the workout by deciding what exercises you will be doing. I suggest a full body workout to maximize the allotted time. I then decide if I am counting reps or going for time. For example, if I do a total of five exercises, I will do each exercise for 45 seconds followed by 15 sec recovery/transition before the next move. I will do a total of three to ten rounds of all five exercises." An example workout would include squats, mountain climbers, back lunges, jumping jacks and plank shoulder taps.
Find a Flight of Stairs
Ashley Giovinazzo, a personal trainer at Equinox Beverly Hills and a coach at the Pink Iron in West Hollywood, has an easy workout that requires a flight of stairs (perfect if you have a basement or live in an apartment) and a gallon jug filled with water. This glute-sculpting 30-minute interval workout is one she gives many of her clients who are always on the go.
How to do it: In 30 seconds, run up and down the stairs once. Then grab the gallon jug and hold it in front of your body while doing many lunges or air squats in the remainder of the time. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat for 10 rounds. Finish the workout with ten rounds of bicycle crunches using the same interval timing.
RELATED: Eat This, Not That! for Runners
It feels like there are a billion and one fitness apps out there, but editors at Eat This, Not That! were recently introduced to Skyfit—and they might be in love. You can choose from a range of fitness activities (running, treadmill, yoga, etc.), select a playlist that has current, real music (not lame, canned music) ,and then proceed to workout on your own with a top-notch instructor telling you what to do and when. It's literally music—and awesome motivation—to your ears.
Three Little Words: Flexibility, Resistance, Cardio
Joseph Cintron fitness instructor/personal trainer at Carillon Miami Beach says if you're home and need to workout, flexibility, resistance, and cardio the keys. "These three aspects of fitness are a definite must," he says. "Five to seven minutes of stretching is a great start to a home workout. A great way to warm up after the stretch is a few rounds of shadow boxing, jump rope, or simple jumping jacks. Great resistance exercises are loaded split squats, pushups, dips, Spiderman push-ups, lunges, sit-ups, crunches, planks, jump squats, ski squats, mountain climbers," he recommends. "I like to do high volume on these exercises to really build conditioning and endurance for the muscles, especially in the legs. The legs are our largest muscle group and requires more energy to use them, which results in higher caloric expenditure."
Get Your Kids and Go Go Go!
Have kids? They're surely in needing of burning off a ton of energy so take advantage and get in on the action with them. "Create an obstacle course for your kids and race them! Run, jump, crawl, race! " says Diana Newton, co-owner and trainer at Fitmix Studio in LA. "Don't have kids? Borrow your friends' kids and let their parents go on a day date while you babysit."
Cardio-ify Your Commute
It's easy to get in exercise just by simply changing up your routine in the morning while making your way to the office. Zuta Gilchriest, Regional Group Fitness Director of NY CRUNCH gyms, suggests mini hacks like skipping the elevator and taking the stairs, getting off the train one stop earlier and briskly walking the rest of the way, and parking further from your destination.
Turn Chores Into Core Time
Cleaning day at home? Great time to get your core in tip top shape while you're getting your space sparkling. "Really engage your core pulling your stomach towards your spine as you sweep, mop, and scrub the tub," says Gilchriest. And adding balancing or standing on your toes is an awesome way to challenge your core while doing chores. "Especially balancing on one foot while wiping down counters, sinks, and walls—just make sure to do both sides," says Michelle Opperman, Group Fitness Manager of Crunch in New Montgomery. "Also, doing calf raises or standing on your toes while washing dishes can increase the intensity and fire up the core."
Did you know your home could be making you fat? Cross check your house with our list of 12 Ways Your Home is Making You Fat!
Rewire Your Couch Potato Status
While we would never want to distract you from your favorite show, commercials are a prime time to workout. "Focus on one exercise each commercial break, doing as many as you can. Work your way through the body moving onto the next exercise at the next commercial segment," recommends Opperman. "An example would be squats, push-ups, reverse lunges, crunches, jumping jacks. To increase the intensity you can add speed or add plyo to the moves. The show segment becomes your recovery." Watching a show on say Netflix with no commercial break? You're not off the hook. "Pick a word before the show starts and every time you hear it do five burpees," says Opperman. "This could quickly get real fun and challenging."
Take It to the Dogs
Your pooch's playfulness is also a great calorie burner for you! "Running around with the dog can be a great way to burn calories and get in a great workout without going to the gym. As long as you are moving, your muscles are contracting and burning calories," says Derek Mikulski, BS, CSCS, CPT, Founder of ActivMotion, "Just be sure to set aside some dedicated time each day. Just ten minutes per day of playing with your dog at a moderate level of intensity can burn more than 15,000 calories in a year! This equates to roughly five or six pounds of fat!" Since your pup is helping you take care of your health, make sure to look out for his and familiarize yourself with the 10 Best and Worst Superfoods for Your Dog.
Throw in the Towel
All you need is a towel and these three moves that basically create a tug-o-war with yourself. It's also a customizable workout because the stronger you get the more challenging the workout becomes. "The best part is that it only take 15 minutes to get a total body workout and it lowers cortisol levels because it lengthens and strengthens the body," says Lisa Avellino, NY Health and Wellness Fitness Director. "The three hunger hormones in the body ghrelin, leptin and cortisol are affected by stress, chemicals and underlying conditions in the body. This workout combines cardio, strength, stretch and core but does not put stress on the joints or hormones. Try these moves to align your body, quiet your mind and balance your hormones." Here are the three moves:
1- Overhead side-to-side bend while seated - 10 times
2- Biceps and triceps while seated - 10 times
3- The ab blaster towel pull while sitting - 10 times
Grab a Can
If you're in the kitchen, instead of grabbing a snack while you're waiting for something to finish cooking, use the time to get your those guns sculpted. "Do bicep curls with canned food," says personal trainer Lola Berry. "Find heavy cans and try 12 reps for four rounds. You should feel it!"
Speaking of cooking at home, find out the 25 Awful Ingredients Everyone Still Uses—But Shouldn't!
Get "Car" Jacked
Stuck in the car waiting for your kids or killing time between your next afternoon meeting? Keep a pair of one to three-pound weights in your trunk for a quick set of bicep work or chest presses (if you are able to recline the car seat). "Make sure you have enough room by pushing your seat all the way back. While holding a weight in each hand, start to curl the weights upward towards your shoulders while keeping your elbows close to your ribcage. Repeat this action for eight reps, three times," says fitness coach Nadia Murdock. And if you have extra time and can recline your seat all the way back, go for chest presses. "While laying down, keep a weight in each hand keeping your arms straight above your head without locking your elbows. Have your knuckles facing you, with a pull-down action bring the weights down towards your chest and push back up to complete one rep. Repeat this move for eight reps, three times."
Weigh Down Your Errands
"Keeping ankle weights in your car are a great way to make grocery shopping and picking up dry cleaning a little bit more challenging. Other options include a weighted vest that allows you to increase and decrease the weight from day today," recommends Murdock. "Feeling bashful? Camouflage these fit essentials with a stylish zip-up hoodie or a pair of slouchy activewear bottoms."
Throw a Dance Party
Your days may seem packed but anyone can find time to dance it out. "Blast your favorite tunes and shake your stuff! Go for it! It is your own dance party that will pump up your heart rate while having so much fun," says Ilyse Baker, star of the Weight Watchers: Ultimate Dance Party Kit. If you have more time and the music is keeping you motivated, you can always add in some pushups, mountain climbers, and squats.
Eat This Tip: Did you know we have a YouTube channel full of how-to videos of exercises? Watch celeb trainer Mark Langowski, author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs demonstrate how to do mountain climbers and much more!
Work that Booty
First thing in the morning and last thing before bed, it's booty time! "Do 100 booty squats after you wake up in the morning and 100 before bed!" instructs Javier Perez, trainer at modelFIT. It sounds so simple, but we're pretty sure your backside will be turning heads in no time.
Make Vacuuming Worthwhile
Vacuuming probably isn't the kind of thing you want to postpone any longer than you have to—or is it? Walking lunges are a great way to work on your abs, hips, and thighs, and you can do them while you vacuum. "While holding the vacuum, take a big step forward with one leg while lifting the heel of the other foot," suggests Dr. Robert G. Silverman, nutritionist and HardStyle Kettlebell Certified instructor. "Bend the knees and drop your hips down. Don't let the back knee touch the ground. Come back up and bring the back foot forward in another big step. Repeat until the carpet is clean."
Make your Home Movement-Friendly
You may have remembered from our 15 Ways to Burn Calories in the Bedroom, but there are little things you can do to make your home a constant source of calorie burning. "Keep a pull-up bar on your bedroom door and use it anytime you enter and leave the room. Put your plates in a low cabinet so you have to squat to reach them. Keep your spices in a high cabinet where you have to stretch for them. Sit on the floor instead of the sofa," suggests Katy Bowman, creator of the Daily Movement Multivitamin DVD. "It seems so simple, but people are losing the simple range of motions and strength necessary to rise easily from the floor—a measure that correlates to lifespan."
Hold Your Calls
Next time your cell phone rings, stand up to answer it and don't sit back down for the whole call. Katy Fraggos of the boutique fitness studio, Perspirology, has a way to make it even more challenging. "Try balancing on one leg throughout the duration of the call. Alternate to balance on the opposite leg when the next call comes in."
Turn Your Office Into a Track
"At every half hour, do at least one 'lap' around your work floor," says Fraggos. "You can make it seem like you are doing something else, like going to chat with another co-worker or grabbing a drink of water. Again, we are just trying to keep the body moving and burning calories!"
Use that overflowing inbox to your advantage! Whether you're at your desk or on the go, every time you get the chime that a new email has come through, stop and do 20 lateral floor taps. How to do these: "Stay seated with back straight and arms long by sides," explains Fraggos. "Lean to one side and reach fingertips toward the floor, reverse to reach opposite fingertips to the floor."
Loving all these smart, sneaky strategies? Then don't miss these 20 Ways to Bounce Back After Vacation!
Stop Cursing Those Red Lights
Next time you're stuck in traffic or at a red light (as it's important not to let yourself get distracted driving), you can easily take advantage of the time to work your core muscles and improve posture. "To do this, hold the steering wheel at ten and two.Sit with your back as straight as possible, ears stacked over the shoulders also allowing you to relax the back of the neck. Glide shoulder blades down the back and squeeze shoulder blades slightly inward," says Jessica Diaz Barre instructor and certified personal trainer. "Start to breathe your bellybutton in towards your spine, towards the lower back, toning the core muscles. Focus on taking deep calming but forceful belly breaths. You can do what I do to have fun with this and blast your favorite song, exhaling sharply to the beat!"
Do the Hotel Room 300
"My favorite thing to do when I travel is pick 10 exercises and do them each 30 times," says Opperman. "This is great because it doesn't require a lot of space and you can get you heart rate up just using your own bodyweight. The best way to add more challenge is to try and do your 300 moves as fast as you can." Psst! Find out The Only Ab Exercise You'll Ever Need and add it into your rotation!
If you have five minutes, you can get in a body sculpting workout no matter where you are—home, office, hotel—and all you need is fitness lifestyle expert Paige Hathaway's "Fit in 5" routine. "Perform each exercise concurrently, with no rests between each. Ensure the core is engaged throughout the entire workout by keeping the transverse abdominals (TVA) activated. Do this by drawing the belly button is as tightly as possible to the spine and elevating the rib cage," Hathaway explains.
Bird Dogs: 1Min
Begin in a plank position. Extend the left leg and right arm away from your body until they are parallel with your torso. While maintaining balance and stability in the shoulders and torso, lower yourself back into the starting position by pulling the opposite elbow to the knee. Alternate sides each rep.
Inchworms: 1 Min
Standing upright with feet together, bend at waist and place hands directly in front of feet while keeping the knee as straight as possible. Begin to walk the hands out, alternating left, then right. Shoot for 3-to-4 inch increments until your upper body is stretched into a plank position. Now begin to inch your feet towards your hands, all while keeping your knees locked, so that you return to the starting position.
Stir-the-Pot On Stability Ball: 1 Min
Kneeling on the floor, place your hands on the ball with your palms together. Initiate the movement by rolling the ball away from you until your elbows are on top of the ball. Move your forearms around in a circle motion (simulate stirring a pot). Alternate directions every 15 seconds.
Knee Tucks on Stability Ball: 1 Min
Begin by lying face down across a stability ball in a plank position and walk forwards with your hands until your upper ankles are directly on top of the ball. Start by curling your knees in toward your chest while rolling the ball underneath your torso. Once you feel your abdominal muscles contract, steadily extend the legs back and return into the starting plank position.
Supermans: 1 Min
Begin by lying face down on a mat with arms and legs extended in front and behind you. Keep your fingers together, pointed straight out in front of you and your feet pointed behind you. Be sure to keep your arms and legs straight throughout the entire exercise. Contract your abs and glutes while raising your hands and legs 4-to-5 inches off the ground. Hold each rep for 5 seconds before returning to the starting position.
Do a Mental Workout
Last, but not least! If you want to stay fit and keep your body in peak shape, you need to have your mind in balance with that goal. According to Angel Alicea, a fitness instructor/personal trainer at Carillon Miami Beach, the easiest thing you can do is meditate. It takes practice but you can do it anywhere. "This mental workout tends to be the hardest one to do," she says. "Start with five minutes a day and increase weekly. Think of a good thought, listen to soft music, or sit quietly in a room. The rewards are endless." Can Meditation Make You Thinner? It's possible!
MORE FROM EAT THIS, NOT THAT!
ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent