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Five ways to find more fitness in the same 24 hours

Picture this with a grocery bag instead of a dumbbell
Picture this with a grocery bag instead of a dumbbell
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun

You have the same 24 hours everyone else gets each day. The only question is what you'll pack into your 24 that others may or may not. If you're serious about your health, you won't take or make any excuses about being unable to fit in a workout. You don't need to have a solid hour dedicated to a workout, and you don't need Bryan the Bronze Bodybuilding Babe to be your personal trainer.

What you need is stealth. Yup, stealth.

You have to sneak in opportunities to MOVE your muscles, whether it's a workout-with-a-capital-W or not. (Of course, it's better if you can manage dedicated time for a well-planned workout -- but let's be realistic. There are days that's simply not going to happen.)

Everyone has heard about parking at the far end of the lot, and taking the stairs and so on. These ideas are good, and not to be ignored, but they won’t give you enough activity to make a significant difference. Here are some more effective ways to pack an extra punch -- one is guaranteed to be brand-new to you.

Stealth Squats

While you're drying your hair, brushing your teeth, choosing your clothes, or doing anything else that requires you to stand in one place for a couple of minutes -- don't just stand there. Put your feet hip-distance apart and, keeping your chest lifted, bend deeply at the knees and hips to push the hips backward in a squat position. Repeat as many times as your primary activity allows.

  • Bonus points: reach your arms skyward as you do this, and hold each "down" phase for at least 5 seconds.

Sneaky Leg Lifts

Seated at your desk (or even on the toilet), extend the right leg, straighten the spine, and lean forward about 20 degrees to eliminate the action of the abs. Flex the right foot, keep the knee straight, and pulse the entire leg up and down about 4 inches total. Repeat as many times as possible, then switch to the left leg.

  • Bonus points: repeat the same drill while standing at another point during the day; try to balance without support to engage the abs.

Undercover Arms

You can do this drill anytime you're gripping something -- a steering wheel, a shopping cart, a stroller, the edge of your desk, etc. You can even do it without another object by clasping your two hands together. It's an isometric exercise, meaning that you flex the muscles without moving the joint. In this example, just use hands clasped together, but you can easily transfer the same motion to whatever object you're holding. For each, hold 2 seconds and release; repeat at least 10 times or more if time allows.

  • Clasp your hands together in front of your chest, below your chin. Push together (remember Judy Blume's "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" and her bust-boosting exercise?).
  • Next, clasp hands at the level of your navel. Face the left palm up first, and the right palm down; hug the elbows in to the ribs. Press the palms against each other. Reverse the hands in the next round, facing the right palm up and the left down.
  • Make a fist with the right hand, and grip the right wrist with your left hand. Point the elbows out to the sides, at shoulder-level. Pull apart. Switch to hit the other side.
  • Repeat the last drill, but with hands held overhead and elbows out to the side at ear-level.

Clandestine Carrying

Mainly for the biceps and shoulders, you can do this anytime you're carrying bags (not too heavy) or playing with younger kids. Hug the elbows tight to the ribs, and lift the weight by bending the elbows up and down to your maximum range of motion. Repeat as time and strength allow. (If you do this one every time you unload groceries, you’ll probably get at least 5 reps between the car and the kitchen, which adds up to about 20 reps in 4 trips. Not bad, for spending ZERO extra time!)

Latent Legs

This is best done with kids (unless your coworkers are willing to play along!). Challenge them to some races in a different style each round. Set out your start and finish lines, then try to cross them with:

  • Giant, 2-leg "frog" leaps - Start with feet hip-width or wider. Bend deeply and push off, landing on both bent legs.
  • Smaller, 2-leg "bunny" hops - Feet are close together with bent knees. Make smaller hops all the way across.
  • One-leg hops - You know this one. Make sure you do both sides.
  • "Dinosaur" steps - Take long, lunging steps toward your line, being careful to keep the leading knee behind its ankle. Each time, try to extend the back leg, then push strongly through the front heel to return to standing. Alternate legs and repeat. Then do it backwards.

That's it! Before you know it, you've squeezed in a miniature workout for your major muscle groups – and maybe even had a little fun in the process!

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