Sneaking exercise

You have more time to get fit than you might realize. Exercise does not have to take a lot of extra time.

Can just doing a little more exercise, such as the suggestions on this page, really make any difference?

“…newer public health guidelines suggest that sedentary individuals can derive significant health benefits from accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderately intense activity, called lifestyle activity, on most days of the week. Lifestyle activity may include walking, using stairs when available, gardening, and looking for opportunities to expend energy.”

(Physical Activity and Weight Management, from THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE)


“Anything that gets your heart beating faster counts.


One question on the written final for my swimming classes is:

List five ways to sneak extra fitness into your busy life.

Here are some of the ways from our text and from students’ answers. Yes, you will notice that some of them are impractical or listed just for a laugh. (Plus I add ‘new’ exercise ideas since we all can get bored with the same old stuff all the time.) This weblog is not in chronological order.

Studies show that getting ten minutes of exercise three times a day is just as heart-healthy as one 30-minute workout session.

A US government ‘Healthy People 2010’ national goal says “scientific evidence has demonstrated that persons who engage in vigorous-intensity physical activities at least 3 days per week for 20 minutes per occasion accrue overall health benefits.”

Links to short articles on safe, effective exercise strategies are at:
Essay on one of the five components of fitness.

included there are:

low-impact standing 7-minute workout

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout

The more vigorous activities give more benefits than the less vigorous, but start with what you can do.
Examples: raking leaves for 30 minutes or gardening for 30-45 minutes is about equal to shoveling snow for 15 minutes. Walking 1 3/4 miles in 35 minutes is about the same amount of exercise as walking 2 miles in 30 minutes, running 1 1/2 miles in 15 minutes, pushing a stroller 1 1/2 miles in 30 minutes, biking 4 miles in 15 minutes, or pushing yourself in a wheelchair for 30 to 45 minutes.

from The Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook: “A Massachusetts geriatrician encouraged ten 86 to 96 year-olds to lift weights. They did so three times a week for 10 to 20 minutes, starting with just five pounds. After eight weeks, they had doubled their strength. Two of them no longer needed their canes, and one, for the first time in a long time, was able to get up from his chair.” … “Walking 15-20 minutes 4-5 times a week is all you need to markedly improve your health.”

(But first, the reminder that you need to consult with a physician before you start a new exercise program AND you should always warm up, cool down and stretch properly – see your textbook.) The CDC warns: “Doing activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people. But if you have a chronic health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, or other symptoms be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you.” has this and more:
“The talk test is a simple way to measure relative” exercise “intensity. In general, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you’re doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath”

Study after study tells us that fewer than 50% of Americans do enough muscle strengthening exercise:

simple chart

Instead of driving around the front of the parking lot getting frustrated looking for a parking space, park in the back of the lot and walk briskly. You’ll get to your shopping faster. Don’t look too uppity at the other drivers wasting their time as you walk past them.

Put the T.V. remote controls in storage; get up and change the channel yourself. This has the extra advantage that you will realize you really don’t need to be watching T.V. and will be more likely to get up and do something else.

Don’t just sit and zone out watching TV that bores you. Get up and do something.

Don’t make it a habit of watching TV during dinner. Talk to your family. Get up and go for a walk together after and continue the conversation.

Throw out the T.V. or at least don’t take cable

Wash your car yourself instead of going to the car wash. It really won’t take more time. (Except a car wash might be a better idea during a drought.)

Don’t take the elevator to the doctor appointment. It’s full of sick people and germs; use the stairs.

Don’t use the elevator at work, then you won’t have to breathe the heavy colognes.

Don’t use the elevator anywhere; it’s easier to give eye contact and a sly smile and flirt on the stairs.

Not using the elevator is faster. Walking up (and down) as many as six flights of stairs is faster than waiting and riding, especially if there’s a crowd.

(Each flight of stairs burns 16 calories).

When Sprint built its new world headquarters, they planned more fitness for employees. They installed SLOWER elevators and windowed staircases to encourage people to climb stairs rather than ride. There are no parking spaces close to buildings. The parking garage is on the far side of the road ringing the campus so people will walk more.

Walk up some stairs backwards. Go upstairs two steps at a time.

The New York Department of Health put up signs saying ” Burn Calories. Not Electricity. Take the stairs!” next to elevators and stairwells at a health clinic, a apartment house and an academic building in a study. Stair use immediately climbed 35 percent. The the effect continued to some degree over the nine months of the study.

The Department of Health noted that just two more minutes of stair climbing each day can burn enough calories to eliminate the one pound that an average adult gains each year. Another study showed that men who climbed at least 20 floors a week (about 3 floors a day) had a 20% lower risk of stroke or death from all causes.

One of my students comes to work a little early so he can climb stairs to his office on the 16th floor every day. This has the added advantage that if there is a traffic mess, he has extra time built in and can take the elevator that day and won’t be late.

According to Planet Jackson Hole, “In his third try of the year in January,” 2017, “Li Longlong of China surpassed his own Guinness Book record by climbing 36 stairs while headstanding (beating his previous 34). (Among the Guinness regulations: no touching walls and no pausing more than five seconds per step.)”

take the stairs sign: sign that says burn Calories, not electricity, take the stairs

Pretend you are running late and get to the bus stop faster.

Don’t use the travellator in airports, walk instead. Or if you use it, walk real fast and enjoy how fast you go past people.

Walk up and down the escalator instead of just riding it. If it is too crowded to walk up, stand on the step with the front of each foot and let your heels drop down a little to stretch your calves. Don’t bounce when you stretch.

Always use the stairs instead of the slope going in to a store.

Walk or bike to the grocery for a small shopping list, to a close by restaurant for lunch or a close by library.

Go dancing instead of to a movie.

(Watching other people dance does not count.)
Whenever you walk, walk just a little faster than you would if you didn’t think about it.

The AARP Bulletin reported: “A University of Pittsburgh study of adults 65 and older found that those whose usual walking pace exceeded one meter per second lived longer.”

Instead of just walking, dance walk.

Put the exercise bike or treadmill next to the T.V. and telephone.

Do sit-ups (or rather, the better “crunches”), and pushups during commercials. (Men’s Health magazine says that the average man spends 2 hours a week exercising, and 29 hours a week watching T.V.) Think what just exercising during all those commercials could do!

Try some new pushups during each commercial that advertises something new. Do a few with your arms a little wider apart, some with your arms/hands a little farther forward. Try some with your hands up on a slightly higher surface (but don’t do a pushup down onto a stair and lose teeth!). Try some new crunches for every commercial that irritates you. (Do the crunches to the side as well as to the front.)

Wall sit while having a long phone call. Or use the wireless phone and go up and down the stairs/hall.

Be late to class so you’ll have to run to class.

Eliminate all phones from upstairs at home so you have to run downstairs to answer a call.

A newspaper article about the University of California at Davis animal nutrition clinic said that “one in four cats or dogs has been overfed and under-exercised into obesity.” It gave the advice “time alone in a yard is not sufficient exercise… sometimes begging isn’t for food, but for attention. Go play with your pet!”

Run and play with your dog instead of just throwing the stick.

Chase cars with your dog. Barking is optional.

Chase squirrels with your dog, it’s surprisingly fun. The average urban park squirrel could use more exercise, so it’s good for all of you. Alas, people look at you funny if you don’t have a dog.

Walk the dogs to the park instead of driving them.

Walk your neighbor’s dog, especially if she’s cute. Tell her it’s a homework assignment from your class.

Let the indoor cat out and go looking for it.

Climb a tree whenever you see one.

If you get to swim class early, walk up and down the pool bleachers stairs.

Park on the top floor of the parking structure and take the stairs.

Don’t pay for an on campus parking permit. Park off-campus and walk or jog.

TEN MINUTES of aerobic exercise is about all you need to produce enough endorphins to make you feel good!

Walk between office buildings instead of taking the shuttle.

Vacuum ferociously.

While you vacuum, tighten your core muscles (like trying to push your belly button towards your back).


In an office, when filing charts, don’t sit in a chair and roll around, get up and down to file.

On a break at the office, walk to a farther away break room and meet some new people.

In the office, walk over to a colleague instead of just emailing or calling.

On breaks, have walking meetings; go for a short walk with a colleague.

If your fax machine/copy machine is broken, don’t get it fixed, then you can walk down the hall to use another one.

Find a long route to keep from going by the office of your boss.

Hang a picture of your boss at work and throw darts at it. Have competitions with other employees.

Schedule meetings at a farther away room.

Get a wireless phone headset so you can get up and move around during long teleconferences.

Park in a different parking lot at work than your regular one. After work you will head for the usual place and realize you are not parked there and have to walk farther to get to where you are really parked.

A 2000 to 2002 study of 10,500 metro Atlanta residents found that for every extra half hour commuters drive each day, they have a 3 percent greater chance of being obese than others who drive less. People who live within walking distance of shops (defined as less than a half mile) are 7 percent less likely to be obese than others who have to drive. How much time a person spent driving had a bigger impact than other factors such as education, gender or ethnicity. Suburban white men typically weigh 10 pounds more than men who live in dense urban centers with readily available shops and services.

Below, a map of physical inactivity by state.
“Respondents were classified as physically inactive if they responded “no” to the following question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise?” “

simple map


Go to a hike and cut it yourself Christmas tree farm instead of getting a pre-cut one.

Don’t use the drive thru at stores, walk in. Don’t pay for gas at the pump, walk in.

Don’t use rolling backpacks; carry it. Add extra books to your school backpack.

Self magazine, September 2002, said that 45 minutes of walking five days a week can cut your cold risk in half.

Take extra-cold showers so you have to jump around.

Hold (slightly lift) your suitcase while waiting in the ticket counter queue, hold it a little to the side and a little in front.

Instead of using the stroller, carry the baby.

Get an apartment on an upper floor.

Rent a place where you can walk to work.


Do dips on an office chair. No, not during executive meetings!

When you get up from a chair, sit back down again, then get up very s-l-o-w-l-y then sit down v-e-r-y slowly, then finally get up.

When working on your website or some other project that requires waiting for files/photos to download or save, get up and do a different project during the pauses or do the chair exercises above.

According to THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE, “Light stretching exercises are recommended for airline passengers to increase comfort and relaxation and to decrease the risk of deep venous thrombosis (DVT, also known as “economy class syndrome”), caused by prolonged sitting in confined areas.” Health magazine said “get your blood moving with a walk down the aisle. Or try this: Extend your legs and flex your ankles, pulling up and spreading your toes. Then, push down and curl your toes; repeat 5 times.”

Put the computer printer where you can’t reach for the copy, or better yet, where you have to not only get up from your chair, but you have to leave your cube.

Make copies on the copier on another floor and take the stairs to get there.

Ride your bike to the train station, take it on the train and bike from your stop to work.

Stand instead of sitting on the bus, leaving seats for elders.

Do your best Gene Kelly impression on rainy days.

Walk around your new car twice to check for door dings before getting in.

Carry your wife to the bedroom every night.

Just stop working at random and go for a five minute walk to clear your thoughts.

From the San Jose Mercury-News, March 18, 2003

“News of the Weird

America’s worsening gullibility problem.

According to a December Federal Trade Commission lawsuit, Mark Nutritionals Inc. of San Antonio earned $190 million in four years selling a $40 solution that guaranteed weight loss even if the user ate lots of pizza, beer, tacos and doughnuts.”


Clench your butt while sitting in an office meeting.

Go to the mail room yourself.

Walk your friend out to their car. Then go up an extra flight of stairs and back down on your way back.

Instead of buzzing your guests in, go down and meet them.

Get out in the cold and shiver.

As we get older, exercise has been shown to improve our ability to maintain our brain power, learn and concentrate.

Lift the trash bag a lot of times on your way to the dumpster.

While standing in line at the grocery/bank, while brushing teeth, while waiting at the copier, stand on one leg at a time or do straight leg or bent knee toe lifts. Knead imaginary bread. No, not jumping jacks!!

If you are out of shape and find you can’t stand on one leg without losing balance, start with this from the AARP magazine: “Stand in a corner with your feet together, arms crossed and eyes closed. Try to stand without wobbling for one minute. (Keep a chair in front of you for stability.)”

A study found that frailty in elderly may be prevented or reversed if addressed early.
“Frailty, like disability, is a dynamic process with older individuals moving back and forth between different frailty states, and there are surprisingly high rates of recovery.”

Dance while cleaning.

Play golf extra fast. Combine the time and score to see who wins.

Don’t just quietly sit and play guitar, stand up and perform like a rock star.

Skip to class when you feel giddy.

Run to class and take an extra lap around the building in the same amount of time it takes to walk.

Don’t just watch music videos, dance to them.

Dance like no one is watching you.

If you have children, don’t tell them to get things for you if you can do it yourself.

Offer to babysit your friends’ kids.

Run alongside while your kid learns to ride a bike.

While waiting for your kids’ sport practice to end, walk around.

UC Berkeley Wellness Newsletter reminds us that trying to improve health habits isn’t always easy. “If you have a relapse-and relapses are common, especially in the first 90 days-this doesn’t mean you are a failure. Rather than taking up your old habits, go back and start over again.”

Scrub the tub while taking a shower.

Clean the front porch with a broom instead of using a hose.

Dance at clubs instead of sitting in the bar drinking.

Lift your briefcase while waiting for the bus or airplane.

A shorter lunch and a longer walk.

Walk without shoes on a hot sidewalk.

Do some imaginary hop scotch as you walk.

Run away and join the circus.

Walk to a friend’s house to chat (and do the gossiping while walking together) instead of calling them.

Don’t let the rain stop you.

Jog/walk around the store once before you go in to shop.

For a small list, carry a basket shopping instead of using a cart.

When you shop for groceries zip down the aisles. If you miss some items and have to backtrack it adds to your workout

Do pushups on the store counter edge while they check your groceries.

Bag your own groceries. Lift each item extra high as you do.

‘Race’ with unsuspecting people, like the grocery clerk taking out your basket.

Push the grocery cart down a slope, then run after it to catch up to it before it hits someone’s car.

Slowly lateral raise, curl and overhead press the groceries as you put them away. Hey, don’t drop the gallon of 1% milk! Try the lighter weight cans of food at first to build up strength. Don’t weightlift any one can too many times or it will turn into mush.

You will notice the slightly better ‘workout’ you get by simply holding a gallon of milk or a bag of groceries higher or out to the side farther as you are carrying them from the car.

When unloading groceries from the car, carry one bag at a time into the house, but move faster.

Tease big guys was the original entry. Then students thought of more along the same line. So here they are in their own section. They are, of course, not all recommended.

Tease really big guys hot girlfriends.

While on a walk, tease the neighbor’s dog so it will chase after you.

One student winter quarter 2004 came up with these three new ideas:

Kiss girls then make them chase you.

Ring the doorbell of your neighbor and sprint away. After a couple of times he’ll chase you and you get a bonus workout.

Hide dogsy treats in your clothes and make your dog chase you.

Tell strangers who smoke to stop smoking. If they look angry, RUN.

Flirt with the daughter of a possessive, overly-protective big game hunter or professional wrestler.

Annoy your little brother or sister until they get so angry they want to slap you and make them chase after you.

Swat at a bee hive.

Hike up the mountain with your skis instead of buying a lift ticket. For a more extreme version of this, consider Exum (Grand Teton National Park) climbing guide Stephen Koch, who has climbed various mountains in winter and snowboarded down, such as Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran, Denali, Aconcagua (Argentina), El’brus (Russia), and Mount Vinson (Antarctica).

BORED with the same old exercises? Think up some new ones:

Practice pushing up and jumping from a lying-down-on-a-surfboard position to a surfing stance. I’m goofy-footed myself.

Drive a manual transmission instead of auto, because you can’t eat a burger when driving a stick.

Close the drapes, turn down the lights, put on some music and choreograph your own ballet.

Leave for work a little early and get off the bus one stop ahead or one behind. You’ll not only get a little extra exercise, you’ll get to know the neighborhood better and see more shops and restaurants.

Park a block further away from work.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, 15% of U.S. children and adolescents are obese. This number has tripled since 1980. Obesity in kids increases the likelihood that they will develop heart disease, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer as adults. As kids, it adds to asthma and Type 2 Diabetes.

Instead of getting frustrated trying to jockey for a position to drop off the kids at school, park a few blocks away and walk with them. Instead of driving the kids to school, walk with them the whole way once in awhile. Then walk a slightly different route. You’ll all get to know some neighbors. Walk a route with them that you/they would use in an emergency when the neighborhood needs to evacuate.

Dance ‘silly’ with your two-year-old to the tune of “The Muffin Man.”

Play ‘horse’ with the kids.

Play/pillow fight with your kids, they’re energetic and give you a good workout.

Don’t supervise kids’ meals. Then they will be more likely to have a food fight and you can all get exercise cleaning it up.

Take your kids to the park and chase them around. Wrestle with your kids. Wrestle with your spouse.

Play on the jungle gym with your kids.

Hula hoop, kick the can, dodge ball, wheelbarrow races, three-legged races, with kids OR adults

Find a facility that offers family tae kwon do, track nights, yoga classes or aerobic workouts.

Play hockey on roller blades with your friends/kids on weekends instead of staying in bed all morning. Hey, don’t forget the helmets and knee pads!

They have an annual “stairathon” at the John Hancock Building in Chicago. This involves going up 94 floors, which is 1,632 steps with a 1,000-foot vertical climb. For two recent years the “Hustle Up the Hancock” record was 10 minutes, 22 seconds, made by a 41/42 year old man.

Do some kind of chore everyday. Wash two windows, pull 3 square feet of weeds, clean out a closet, mop one floor, vacuum or wash the car. You’ll keep up on your chores magically and get exercise benefits as well.

Leg lifts during work, karate punches and kicks at home.

Buy ice in blocks and use a clean axe to chop it into cubes.

Take a belly dancing class. Some of the exercises for belly dancing you can practice while standing in line.

During the summer go to a pick-it-yourself farm.

Hide your junk food so you have to find it.

If you haven’t gone bowling in awhile the laughing alone will give your tummy a workout.

Go camping and while the adults are busy or lounging around shoot water at everybody, especially the kids.

Slide/skate in your socks on the hardwood or linoleum floors.

Powerwalk in the mall.

Clean your own home instead of hiring a maid service.

Get your boss to buy a ping-pong table to take short breaks at work/relax/improve interaction with people.

Get that old snare drum set down from the attic.


Pick a vacation with fun physical activities.

Men’s Health magazine (Nov. 2002) quotes statistics that socializing, playing sports or spending time outdoors lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s by 38%. Eating more vitimin E rich foods lowers it 67%, having a tetanus or diphtheria shot 60 % and lowering your systolic blood pressure 56%.

Don’t hire a gardener. Mow the lawn using a reel mower instead of a polluting one.

Plant more deciduous trees so you have more spring blossoms, more fruit, more fall color, AND more leaves to rake for exercise!

Health magazine notes that 16.6 tons of carbon monoxide are produced each day in California by gas-powered leaf blowers. The leaf blower costs $150 on the average. A leaf rake costs $5.97 and produces zero emissions.

Frequently move the living room furniture.

Run out of gas so you have to walk to the gas station.

Forget where you put your keys so you have to walk around looking for them.

Look for something you haven’t lost.

Get out the basketball and do a few hoops but don’t get carried away and do a whole game when you aren’t in shape for it.

Don’t just think about throttling your boss. Challenge him or her to an athletic competition you can humiliate them at.

After you are warmed up from any of these, jump rope. Jump imaginary rope.

Get up early and get the newspaper in the cold in barefeet.

Don’t sit at anything for more than a half hour at a time. Set an alarm if you need to. Get up and stretch and move around. Go up and down a flight of stairs. Drink a glass of water. You’ll go back to the job better able to work.

SELF magazine July 2002 reminds us that if we are sore after a workout we shouldn’t just sit around. Doing light activities that use the sore muscles will increase blood flow to them and help rid them of the chemicals that cause the aches.

Buy a set of hand weights (or maybe just wrap a couple of rocks or bricks in old socks) and play a round of Simon Says with your kids – you do it with the weights, they do without.

Swim with your kids.

Instead of taking the kids to a movie, go to the zoo.

When walking, go up the hills instead of around them.

Fetch the newspaper yourself.

Use a snow shovel instead of a snow blower.

Skate to work instead of driving.

Try the 1 mile walk test in our text. Lane one, in the center of our track, is 440 yards, so four laps would be a mile.

Don’t have the textbook? There are bunches of copies at the Learning Center.

SWIMMERS: for a list of “tests” to see how fit you are, go to my page

How can I tell if I’m a good swimmer? The Navy SEALs prerequisite test is there.

Sneak some more fruit juice into yourself or kids: Pour several different colored 100% juices into ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen, put an assortment of different colored fruit juice cubes into a glass and pour apple juice or white grape juice or sugar-free seltzer over the cubes.

Links to short articles on nutrition are at:
Essay on one of the five components of fitness

scroll down to, you guessed it,