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Get Fit on the Sly

10 clever ways to sneak exercise into your day

spinner image 10 Ways to Sneak Fitness Into Your Day
Swapping your office chair for a stability ball can help you build core strength.
Getty Images

You know that you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. But somehow the time slips by, and you never seem to find that half-hour block. No worries. People who sprinkle activity regularly throughout their day — even in one-minute increments — may get the same blood pressure, cholesterol and waistline benefits as people who exercise in longer, more structured bouts, one study suggests.

Top trainers Chris Freytag, founder of, and Lindsay Hunt, founder of, share their tips for being more active all day long.

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1. While waiting around

Nobody likes standing in line. Here's a full-body exercise routine to help pass the time. Squeeze your behind 10 times. Tighten your stomach muscles 10 times. Stretch your arms downward behind you and squeeze your triceps 10 times. Rise up on your toes and squeeze your calves 10 times.

2. While sitting around

Improve your grip strength by keeping a tennis ball at your desk at work, and another by your favorite chair at home. At least twice a day, grab a ball and squeeze tightly. Hold for five seconds, then release slowly. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each hand.

3. At the supermarket

Build strength by ditching the cart and using your reusable tote bags instead. Sling one over each shoulder and cruise the aisles grabbing what you need. The additional weight is like walking with a pack on, so it boosts your heart rate and your calorie burn.

4. When working at a desk

Sitting is the new smoking: hazardous to your health. If your day includes a lot of chair time, swap a stability ball for your usual perch for 20- to 30-minute periods throughout the day. (Be sure to stand up and walk around frequently, too.) A stability ball builds core strength and may reduce back pain.

5. While brushing your teeth

Balance deteriorates with age, but there's a trick to getting it back. When you brush your teeth, stand on one foot for 60 seconds and then switch. When that becomes easy, try balancing while lifting your leg to the side.

6. While making dinner

Keeping your shoulders strong and flexible can relieve joint pain and stiffness. So the next time you're waiting for water to boil, do some arm circles. Keep your arms out to the sides and do 15 circles in a clockwise direction, then 15 circles counterclockwise.

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7. While your beverages brew

If you've ever had plantar fasciitis — stabbing heel pain that's common with age — you know it's important to keep your calves and Achilles' tendons from getting tight. Loosen up each morning while waiting for your tea to steep or coffee to brew: Stand at arm's length from the wall and place one foot behind the other, keeping heels down and knees straight. Lean toward the wall, bracing with your arms. Bend your forward leg to stretch the calf of your back leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch feet.

8. When getting out of a chair

The ability to get in and out of a chair unassisted has implications for your health — and your longevity. Every time you stand up from or sit down in a chair, use just your legs — or use one hand at first for assistance. Do this 10 times a day and you've done 10 squats, without going to a gym.

9. When at a stoplight

The muscles supporting your uterus, bladder and bowel can weaken over time, leading to incontinence. Counter gravity's effects by tightening your pelvic floor muscles (as if you have to pee and you're "holding it") when you're at a light. Hold for a 10-count, then release for 10. Repeat until the light turns green.

10. While watching TV

This lower-body workout can be done when your favorite show is on: Lie on your side and do three sets of 15 leg lifts, then three sets of 15 leg circles — raising your leg and rotating it in a circular motion. Switch sides.

Selene Yeager is a freelance writer specializing in health and fitness.

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