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5 Super Fun Ways You Can Get Some Exercise Without Even Realizing It

By Joana Neziri and The Clean Plates Team
June 27, 2022

We used to think that getting into shape meant we’d have to commit to serious, intense workouts five days a week. But as it turns out, that’s actually far from the truth — exercise is much easier to incorporate into your normal day-to-day routines than you might think, and most people really only need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. But let’s not discount light-intensity physical activity, either. 

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According to one 2017 study of over 5,000 U.S. adults, participants who engaged in light-intensity activity lowered their mortality risk by 16%, independent of age. This is incredibly encouraging news for people who aren’t super into working out: exercise doesn’t have to be a huge deal, and it doesn’t have to eat up all your free time. It’s one of the most cost-effective methods of health-promotion, and it’s available to everyone. Here are some ways for you to incorporate more movement and exercise into your days without even realizing it.

1. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or park

Hands-on volunteer work is a fantastic way to increase your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which is the energy you burn when you’re not engaged in conscious exercise. Volunteering to work at an animal shelter means you’ll be doing lots of hands-on work like grooming, laundry, cleaning, and walking dogs (not to mention some kitten-snuggling time).

If you’ve ever been tempted to do CrossFit, consider volunteering with a nearby city, state, or national park instead — you’ll be doing a lot of the same moves, like hauling a bag of sand around, but instead of just flipping a tire for no discernible reason, you’ll be helping beautify your community. Projects run the gamut from trail recovery and habitat restoration to river cleanup and invasive species removal, so there’s always something for everyone.

2. Clean your home — and be mindful about the fact that it’s a workout

Ok, yes, cleaning up isn’t the most exciting thing to do, but since it has to be done anyway, why not get some exercise out of it? In a fascinating study published in Psychological Science, researchers worked with a group of 84 hotel housekeepers who regularly did physical work like vacuuming, scrubbing bathrooms, and changing sheets. At the beginning of the experiment, half of the group was informed that the work they do is actually very good exercise, and were provided with evidence to back this claim up. The control group didn’t receive this information. All of the housekeepers then continued doing their jobs as normal, but a month after the experiment started, the housekeepers who had been informed of how much exercise they were actually getting started to perceive their work as exercising more, and their bodies showed results: they lost weight and body fat, had lower blood pressure, and a decreased hip-to-waist ratio. This means there’s good evidence that simply recognizing the household work you’re already doing is exercise will help you reap the benefits of having done it. 

3. Get into video games (the other kind)

There are tons of video games out there that require you to be up on your feet and active in order to advance the gameplay, and we’re huge fans of this trend. Some people like dancing to the beat or running from zombies, but there are also games like Blaston, Active Arcade, and Ring Fit Adventure that are fun, challenging, and can get you moving without it feeling like a chore.

4. Turn your next meeting into a walking meeting

Walking is probably the easiest, least expensive of all exercises. You don’t have to join a gym, own any specialty equipment, or go someplace out of the way. Many people don’t associate walking with exercise because it’s something you do every day, but this activity actually has tremendous benefits, such as reduced anxiety, cardiovascular improvements, leg muscle tone, reduced belly fat, and improved sleep quality. 

“Walking is one of the most fundamental human movements,” says Marisa Chaela, CPT. “Being able to do the movement comfortably has a far greater impact on your life and health than learning a fancy new exercise.” 

Simply put, walking offers much more than calories burned. So the next time you have to take a call at work and you can turn the camera off, consider doing it while going on a walk. You can enjoy the health benefits of walking (and make noncommittal noises about “circling back on that” simultaneously). 

5. Try out a standing desk

Since many of us now have a remote or hybrid working schedule, we’re prone to sitting for long periods of time without even thinking about it — or getting up for more than the occasional coffee break. This negatively impacts our posture and mobility, and can have serious long-term health consequences. Standing desks naturally help you burn more calories, but standing up for part of the workday comes with other benefits we don’t think about like better productivity, too.

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