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Anywhere, anytime fitness: A dozen ways to sneak movement into your routine

Jim knew his doctor really meant it this time. The 45-year-old was battling high cholesterol, high blood pressure and about 20 extra pounds, and during his last checkup his doctor warned him to get serious about eating right and exercising.

Taking his physician’s advice to heart, Jim started cutting the fat in his diet, eating more fruits and vegetables and watching his portions. But when it came to exercise, that was a problem. Health clubs weren’t really his style. He felt uncomfortable working out in a crowd. And the expense was another turnoff. Besides, where would he find an hour a day, or even every other day, to spend at the gym?

What Jim didn’t realize was that fitness isn’t something that has to happen in one-hour blocks. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. And better yet, it can be done anywhere, any time. Government health experts endorse guidelines that call for accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, most days of the week.

When it comes to fitting fitness into your life, all you need is a little creativity and the desire to do your mind and body some good. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Around the house

  1. Put some muscle into your housework. Scrub, vacuum and wash windows with vigor for an energy expenditure that gets your home sparkling and your heart pumping.
  2. Tend your garden. Try your hand at gardening and landscaping. Plant tomatoes, mow the lawn, pull up shrubs that have seen better days and replace with new ones.
  3. Go ahead, watch TV! Just keep moving while you watch. Walk or march in place. Jump rope or climb stairs during a commercial break.
  4. Do a home-beautification project. Scrape away old paint and add a fresh coat. Sand and revarnish tired-looking furniture. Try hanging wallpaper yourself.

    In the car
  5. Take a traffic break. Don’t let a jam—or a red light—get you down. Instead, do some muscle-strengthening exercises:
    • Tone your tummy by pressing your lower back into the seat and tightening abdominal muscles.
    • Squeeze your buttocks together to work your bottom.
    • Firm your forearms by squeezing the steering wheel. Place hands at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, and press arms inward.
    • If you’re a woman, do Kegels. Tighten the muscles you use to control urination. Hold for five seconds and repeat 20 times. The exercise strengthens the muscles of the pelvic floor.

    At work
  6. Head for the halls. Get up once or twice a day and take a two- to five-minute walk, longer if possible. Vary your routine by climbing stairs.
  7. Stretch it out. Are you sore from sitting at your desk or slumping over your workstation? Turn your head from side to side and rotate it in a clockwise and counterclockwise motion.One arm at a time, reach over your head and try to touch your back between the shoulder blades. Stand up, hold your arms above your head, interlace your fingers and stretch toward the ceiling.
  8. Stop short. If you take public transportation to work, leave home 10 minutes earlier and get off the bus a stop or two farther away than usual.

    Around town
  9. It’s off to school you go. If you have young kids, accompany them to school by foot. And the next time you have to pick up milk and the paper, bike to the convenience store instead of driving.
  10. Act like a kid. If it makes you feel better, grab a child (your own, your sister’s or a neighbor’s) and go to the park or playground. Jump on the seesaw, try your hand at the monkey bars or swing as high as you can.

    At the mall
  11. Take the pain out of parking. Just grab the spot farthest away from the mall entrance (it definitely will be available!) and sneak in a brisk, healthy walk.
  12. Be a browser. Don’t make a beeline for your favorite boutique. Instead, take 10 minutes to walk around the entire mall, upper and lower levels if possible. Pretend escalators and elevators don’t exist, and take the stairs. (Yes, there are stairwells in malls and department stores!)