15 tips to transform your life with no-exercise exercise

People on floor mats doing flexibility exercises

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We all know we should get fit, or lose weight. This article is for everyone who hates gyms and exercise. You can do no-exercise exercise without breaking into a sweat. At the same time, make good use of wasted minutes during the day. Take control of your fitness. Transform your life from sedentary to mobile, and exercise without noticing.

Everyone has those times when you’re waiting for:

everyone else to get ready

the kettle to boil

your partner to find his or her keys

the microwave to heat a meal

a real person to speak to on the other end of the phone line.

All that waiting adds up.

1 Sneak in no-exercise exercise

Once you get into the habit, you’ll exercise more than ever. And you can use the same idea to get your housework done too.

So spring into action whenever you’re waiting for others to get their act together. Or at other times such as in between tasks, or before or after meals.

Make the best use of those few minutes here and there to start exercising. (Or to carry out those busywork tasks that would otherwise grow to take over your day.)

2 Use your ingenuity

This is obviously easier for people working from home, or caring for children. However if you’re in an office, be clever. See if you can steal a few minutes to get your body moving. For instance, by walking up and down stairs, rather than taking the lift. Or taking the long way round when you need to see someone. You could even walk along a few corridors the next floor up to get away from your desk. 

And realistically, how long would it take to do 10 knee bends? Or to do 10 of each of the following?

push ups against the kitchen bench
knee bends
big arm circles
leg raises
shoulder shrugs
knee lifts
star jumps
side steps
side bends.

That’s right! 10 – 20 seconds each set.

3 Find a spare 10 – 20 seconds

You all know you can spare 10 – 20 seconds.

If you’re resisting the idea, it’s not because you don’t have the time. You do. 

Admit it. You just don’t want to start.

But give it a go. What have you got to lose? 

Perhaps doing 20 seconds worth of exercise seems too pathetic. So pathetic it’s not even worth doing.

But the whole idea is to exercise without noticing that you’re exercising. 

So what exercise are you doing now?

None, I hear you say? So 20 seconds a day would be more than you’re doing already. 

And you know you don’t like sweating or puffing too much. 

So be smart, and start your fitness journey really slowly. Set the bar so low that you can’t fail. 

Choose to make the effort

Make the effort right now if possible. Get up off the couch and do 20 seconds of exercise.

I’m sure you can also think of lots more short exercises that you could do in 20 seconds.

Write them in an old exercise book, to give you the basis of a no-exercise exercise program.

4 Start slow and build up

You don’t have to spend hours exercising. Just a minute or two at a time. 

For each minute, do about 2-3 short exercises. Switch them around so you’re not doing the same thing all the time.

Space several of these little sessions through the day.

You won’t even get sweaty or out of breath. You’ll be exercising without even noticing you’re exercising.

What’s more, you won’t be exhausted the way you are after those awful workouts they put you through at the gym.

So be content to start slow and build up very slowly. You don’t want to strain anything if you’ve been sedentary for a long time. 

Perhaps start with 3 – 5 repetitions of each exercise until you are fitter. It doesn’t matter how few you start with. The important thing is that you start moving more. 

5 Vary your activities

To stop yourself getting bored, vary your activities. 

Perhaps you could use an exercise ball, or light hand weights. Or do some balance exercises. One stretching exercise can be done in 20 seconds.

To make sure you’re following the right technique, watch some YouTube videos made by qualified physiotherapists. Some of them are hilarious as well as instructive.

That way, you’ll protect your muscles and joints, and be entertained at the same time.

6 Be creative

Be as creative as you can in thinking of new ways to get moving. Remember, it’s all about exercise without noticing that you’re doing any exercise. 

Play with the dog or take it for a quick walk. You could even bring the kids or grandkids into your routine. Teach them how to do some of the simple exercises (without weights). Or dance with them to music.

Try Zumba and have hysterics together. Kick a ball in the backyard. If you’re stuck inside, pat a foam ball in the air. Do anything you can to keep moving.

Even putting your computer on a higher benchtop, so you can stand while doing routine tasks, will get you moving more. 

7 Realise every second adds up

If you keep this up, soon you’ll be doing 5-10 minutes total each day. As you get fitter, add a few seconds to each short workout.

A month or two later, you’ll be doing 15 – 20 minutes a day. And that would be fantastic, considering you weren’t doing anything to start with. 

And remember, if doesn’t matter if you stop every now and again. 

This is a life-long change you’re making. It has to be sustainable. If you beat yourself up every time you stop, you won’t ever start again. 

So just accept that stopping and starting are part of the deal, and get back to it as soon as you can. 

8 Develop short routines

You can even develop your own short exercise routines.

After a few weeks, bracket a few exercises into 2-5 minute sets. For example, put all the arm exercises into one routine. Do the same for the back, leg, knee and stomach exercises as well.

Have a selection of these short routines you can use through the day. Set a target of t of perhaps 2-3 routines through the day. 

Vary which parts of the body you exercise each day. In a week, exercise each major body area at least once or twice.

9 Trick your brain

This method tricks your brain into thinking you’re not really exercising.

You start with such small steps you’re not daunted. You’re doing exercise without really noticing.

So your brain doesn’t have a chance to start whingeing about how awful exercise is – and how much it’s going to hurt.

It’s a great way to get over your brain’s resistance to exercise.

10 Make it suit your lifestyle

Tweak the method to suit your lifestyle and circumstances. Fit it around your commitments.

Make it your own.

11 Compete only with yourself

It’s important, though, to only compete with yourself, not others.

Don’t worry about what all those musclebound gym junkies are doing. You’re not them. You have a different lifestyle and different priorities.

You want to get the maximum benefit from the minimum time and effort, without all the fuss.

12 Acknowledge your efforts

Remember the exercise book I mentioned before? Put the list of exercises you’re doing in a handy spot with a pen. Every time you do an exercise, put a tick alongside it on the sheet.

At the end of the week, you can see how you’re doing. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished.

And make sure you acknowledge the effort you’re making. Praise yourself every time you exercise.

Even if it’s just saying to yourself – “OK, good, that’s another two minutes done.”

Compare what you’re doing now with what you were doing a few weeks ago, and be pleased with yourself.

13 Post reminders to exercise

Put pictures of yourself looking fit and healthy on the fridge, or post notes around the house. These will remind you to grab a minute or two to exercise.

Do a few minutes every hour or so, or after finishing each task. Then get back to your work, or whatever you were doing.

14 Notice the gains

Soon you’ll start to notice the benefits of even a small amount of exercise. 

You’ll feel calmer

You’ll be less annoyed when waiting for others. Instead of stressing, you’ll be doing something for yourself.

After all, you don’t have much control over what others do. So reduce your anger at them, and focus on doing some no-exercise exercise instead. 

You’ll also be mentally sharper

The brain focuses deeply for at most 60 – 90 minutes at a time. Then productivity drops off, even if you try to keep working at the same level.

To recover, your brain needs a few minutes down-time. A short exercise break pumps blood round your body. This provides the brain with more oxygen, nutrients and water.

Therefore, your information processing will be more efficient.

You’ll be healthier and fitter

Exercise will also help combat diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels. Your heart health will improve slowly over time. You’ll also gradually condition your muscles and ligaments, and your overall physical and mental resilience will improve.

15 Synergise

Stephen Covey popularised this idea in the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

It’s a fancy way of saying, “Kill two birds with one stone.” 

So for example, you can do two activities at the same time. Each of them helps you achieve a different goal. You must be able to do both together comfortably without stress. This works if one is slightly more automatic than the other.

So if you want to exercise without noticing, and also engage with your kids, combine both goals in the one activity. Or catch up some TV or reading while using the exercise ball or treadmill.

Be careful to maintain awareness of what you are doing. And keep using correct technique for any exercises you’re doing.

Some examples of synergising:

Rock back and forth on an exercise ball while watching TV or reading.

Cuddle a small child or animal in your arms as you move to music.

Step from side to side while brushing hair, cleaning teeth, or showering.

Walk briskly backwards and forwards while taking on the phone.

Meet up with friends to walk or exercise.

Balance on one leg while watching TV, cleaning teeth etc.

Do simple exercises while listening to your favourite podcasts.

Get a desk cycle, and cycle slowly while working on the computer.

Give no-exercise exercise a try

See if you can trick your body and brain into joining in. You’ll be glad when you start to feel sharper and more energetic.

Everyone knows that changing is hard. But it’s not impossible!

Transform your sedentary life to one of movement and activity. Be proud that you took the initiative to start no-exercise exercise. And be even prouder that you’re keeping up exercise without noticing. 

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