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Working Out Without the Workout

Exercise strengthens your immune system, protects against disease and even wards off anxiety and mild depression. You know it’s good for you, but it’s hard to make time to work out when your mailbox is full, your planner is packed and your cell phone keeps beeping. The trick is to add exercise to your routine in simple, fun ways.

Stealth Health

Dr. David Katz, director of Yale’s Preventive Medicine Center and author of Stealth Health: How to Sneak Age-Defying, Disease-Fighting Habits into Your Life without Really Trying, says there are thousands of little ways to sneak more exercise into your life. Get started with these 10 tips.

  1. Break out the joysticks. Capitalize on your video game addiction by playing active games—it’s called exergaming. Dance Dance Revolution is the classic, and today you can play all sorts of active games on such systems as Wii MotionPlus and PlayStation Move—keeping up is so much fun you’ll forget you’re doing a massive cardio workout. Get more ideas for high intensity fun at Get Up and Move.
  2. Bust a move. Once you’ve mastered the art of video game dancing, show off your moves at a dance club, bar or music joint. And, if you're legal and decide to drink, don't forget to stay hydrated by drinking water after each alcoholic beverage. Another good rule of thumb is to spend more time on the dance floor than you do waiting at the bar for a drink. 
  3. Make like Fred and Ginger. A hot trend sweeping reality TV is ballroom dancing. The constant movement provides cardio exercise, and the focus on posture will tone your abs and back. Many colleges have ballroom dance clubs where you can try it for free.
  4. Count those steps. Wear a pedometer for a few weeks to keep track of your steps. Active people take about 10,000 steps a day, the equivalent of about five miles. Challenge yourself by taking the long way around the library or walking to the cafeteria on the far side of campus.
  5. Walk it off. Americans who live in suburban areas—taking a car or bus almost everywhere—weigh an average of six pounds more than people in metropolitan areas who do a lot of walking. So park the car, skip the bus and lace up your sneakers. Walk to the grocery store, the café, the movie theater, the park—and take a nice relaxing walk every day after dinner.
  6. Drive people crazy. Forget Mom’s warnings to stop fidgeting. People who fidget burn up to 100 calories an hour just by doing what they do: tapping pencils, crossing and uncrossing their legs, pacing while they talk. It’s called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) and the regular movement can burn a lot of extra calories over time.
  7. Lift it up. Lifting weights is actual exercise, but the benefits last long after you put down the dumbbells. When you lift, you increase lean muscle mass, and the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns even when sitting around doing nothing. Ask someone at your campus fitness center about an at-home routine you can do while watching TV.
  8. Play with your friends. Remember kickball, Twister, freeze-tag, Red Rover, Chinese jump rope and hide-and-seek? Get your friends and go back to the good old days! Hit the skating rink or bowling alley. Play ping pong, jacks, hopscotch, croquet or dodgeball. Sign up for intramural Frisbee. Have a water-balloon fight. Somewhere there’s a skinny kid inside you who wants to spin in circles until you pass out dizzy.
  9. Build relationships. The next time you feel stressed, grab a friend and go for a bike ride. Got a thousand calls to make? Take your cell phone to the track and chat while you walk in circles. Do you really get to know a new sweetheart by watching a movie? Try rock-climbing or hiking—you’ll get a chance to talk and score points for being creative!
  10. Remember the little things. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stretch in bed for a few minutes in the morning. Clean your room vigorously. Wash your car by hand. Put a few extra books in your backpack. It only takes a little to make a big change.

Fitness Without the Gym

The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise most or every day of the week, but nobody said you have to use that time in the gym. There are lots of simple, fun ways to get a real workout.


Guidelines: 30 minutes at least most or all days of the week

Options: Walking, running, jump-rope, dancing, bike riding

To compute your maximum heart rate: 220 minus your age (Example: A 30-year-old’s max HR is: 220 – 30 = 190)

For cardiovascular endurance: work out at 70 to 85 percent of your max HR

To lose weight: work out at 60 to 70 percent of your max HR

For more info: American College of Sports Medicine


Guidelines: 10 to 15 minutes at least, two to three times a week, focusing on key joints such as hips, shoulders and back

Options: Yoga, Pilates, dancing, simple stretching

For more info: Yoga Journal

Muscular Strength and Endurance

Guidelines: Two times a week, eight to 10 exercises for major muscle groups (legs, arms, shoulders) with one or two sets of eight to 12 repetitions

Options: Resistance bands, stability bars, hand weights, body resistance exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, etc.

For more info: ACSM and the American Council on Exercise

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