Let's be honest: Structured exercise isn't for everyone. Getting in countless strides on the treadmill or sweating it up as you lift dumbbells in the weight room can become quite mundane. Of course, staying on top of your fitness is a surefire way to build and maintain lean muscle, but what if we told you there are some sneaky ways you can build muscle without exercising?
Now, we're not encouraging you to become a total couch potato or lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Working in some form of physical activity—like walks with your pup, racket sports such as pickleball, and even working in the garden for an entire afternoon—into your routine is necessary if you want to stay healthy and fit. If you don't prefer the gym, consider engaging in more active hobbies, such as joining a walking book club or kickball team. Exercise can be fun, and it doesn't always have to go the traditional gym route you're thinking of.
Besides, building up and preserving your supply of lean muscle as you get older can help you fight off injuries and keep you active for much longer. "As you age, your muscle mass will naturally start to decline," explains Kyle Jones, co-founder and chief innovation and branding officer of iCRYO. "If you make efforts to build your muscles, pay attention to your vitamin and protein intake, and prioritize your overall mental and physical health, you can sustain your health for years to come."
Toss out the idea of typical "exercise," and keep reading to learn what the experts recommend instead. And when you're finished, don't miss out on the 10 Best Exercises for Women Over 50 To Live Longer.
Keep track of your protein.
"Protein is essential for muscle growth," says Jones. "No matter how you exercise or how often you are able to, making sure you eat enough protein is vital for building muscle."
Whether you work some of the best high-protein foods for muscle growth into your diet, such as tofu, Greek yogurt, chicken breast, eggs, salmon, beans, turkey breast, lean beef, and tuna, or get your protein in supplement form and via protein powders, it's key to keep track of your protein consumption on a daily basis.
Map out your vitamins.
If you're not taking daily vitamins, now may be a great time to start. "Behind the scenes of everything your body does, vitamins play a key role," Jones tells us. "They supply your body with essential nutrients that help on a cellular level. Taking supplements by mouth or via IV drip can help you be sure that all parts of your body are being supplied with the right amounts of vitamins based on your diet, lifestyle, and genetics."
Jones suggests giving IM vitamin shots with vitamin B12 a try to give your metabolism a solid boost. Doing so will help your body build up its supply of muscle. Vitamin shots that contain Lipo C are also excellent for revving up your metabolism and delivering an energy boost.
Make recovery time a top priority.
Helping your body recover is a crucial part of the overall muscle-building process. Any active hobbies you do or exercise you get can consistently tear your muscles, and resting helps them rebuild. "If you are taking a break from traditional exercise or find yourself moving in other ways, still keep in mind how important it is to let your body rebuild its muscle fibers," Jones recommends. "You can boost your recovery by exposing your body to cold temperatures like in an ice bath or cryotherapy chamber."
Have better 'cheat meals' in your arsenal.
Thor Bradley, C4 Energy brand ambassador, encourages you to have healthier cheat meals on deck. If you like to eat clean then indulge in a cheat meal when you feel like you've "earned it," it's time to reevaluate your process. If you do this, Bradley says, "When it's time to have a more lax day of eating, [you may] turn to really low nutrient crappy food. So when it's cheat meal time, think a little cleaner. Not so much with the candy, chips, or ice cream. Think bowls of pasta with lean meat, steak, fruit, homemade burgers, and sushi. At least these types of foods are going to bring you nutrients … I'm not saying no ice cream EVER. But maybe, reach for more real food on cheat meal day."
If you've been unsuccessful with meditation previously, or find it challenging to sit and meditate for 30 minutes straight, Bradley has a trick up his sleeve for you. "Here is a way that I have found success with it—I just cheat," he explains. "I use a guided meditation track from YouTube, I elevate my legs at a 90-degree angle up onto my ottoman, and I let the music help me check out for five minutes a day. As you get better, you may be able to do it without the music. But it helps in the beginning. And it's a free way to reduce stress. (Muscles like when you are stress-free!)"
Add athletic movements to your routine.
We've already established that the gym life is not for everyone, and Bradley totally gets that. No matter how much time you spend at the gym, you likely won't train all of your muscles with the close attention to detail they deserve.
"Nothing replaces athletic movements," Bradley says. "Whether it's racquetball, surfing, beach volleyball, rec soccer, boxing, or basketball, you'll notice if you keep some athletic things in your routine, you have an easier time with your health. And it can even complement your aesthetic and keep your physique looking more balanced."
Test out electrotherapy.
You've likely heard the hype surrounding ice baths and saunas—and for good reason. But have you heard about TENS? Electrotherapy can give you so much bang for your buck.
"You can go on Amazon and find yourself a TENS unit for under 50 bucks," Bradley shares. "These little electrodes will help you stimulate a muscle to ease pains and even improve the firing pattern of your tissue. If you cannot afford a massage therapist, this is your next best thing. Leave the electrodes on a problem area on a low setting for 30 to 40 minutes while getting stuff done around the house. It can be used to retrain non-responsive muscles that you may have injured, or it can be used to relieve nerve pain."
Boost your blood flow.
Next up on our list of sneaky ways to build muscle without "exercising" has to do with boosting your blood flow. "If you would like to enhance how your muscles recover, use compression therapy to increase the amount of oxygenated hemoglobin going to your muscles," Jones suggests. "Compression therapy will stimulate your muscles and improve blood flow to target areas of your body, reducing the buildup of lactic acid and increasing your flexibility."
Carve out time to move your body daily.
Moving your body daily is crucial to your overall health and wellness. And, according to Jones, it's important to keep in mind that exercise doesn't need to look the same for each individual. "While consistent, intentional exercise, is one of the best ways to build muscle, there are many ways that you can work it into your day," he says. "Be willing to get up, get some chores done, or maybe go on a walk—there's fun to be had with movement, even if it might not look like traditional exercise."