Well-Being//

These Creative Strategies Will Help You Fit Movement in Your Day Without Having to Hit the Gym

You only need a few minutes and a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking.

DIProduction / Shutterstock
DIProduction / Shutterstock

With a busy work, family, and social schedule, it can feel especially tough to squeeze a workout into your day. And yet, prioritizing some sort of movement — whether it’s a walk with the dog in the morning, a lap around the block at lunch, or a quick at-home workout before dinner — can help you stay healthy, sleep better, and even be more present for others. That’s why it’s important to start with small, realistic Microsteps to stay active.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small, creative ways they fit small bursts of movement and exercise into their day. Which of these strategies will you try the next time you’re faced with a jam-packed day?

Turn your work day into a mini workout 

“Some easy ways to work movement into your day include using the washroom on another floor at work — and taking the stairs to get there! — setting your default printer to the one farther away from your desk, and instead of texting or emailing your colleague, walking down the hall to speak with them in person. At your next meeting, offer to take notes on the whiteboard — so you can stand and move around — and institute standing meetings or stretch breaks during longer meetings. You can also assess the ‘zone of convenience’ on your desk and move daily-use items further away so you have to stand up to retrieve them.”

—Amanda Sterczyk, M.A., C.P.T., international author and fitness advocate, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Park far away

“I park as far away as possible when running errands – or even walk a couple of miles to a store. This small change makes me feel better, and I’m probably burning more calories more each week.”

—Nancy A. Shenker, writer and marketing strategist, Scottsdale, AZ

Take a walk to avoid the midday slump

“If I don’t move it, I lose it — my sanity, that is. It took me some time to figure this out, but at around 4 p.m. every work day, I get up from my desk, go outside, and walk for 10-20 minutes. I start breathing deeply to wake up from my usual midday slump, and suddenly my mood lifts. By the time I return to work, I’m energized and ready to seize the rest of my day and evening. It still amazes me that such a little intervention can have such a big effect.”

—Barry Alden Clark, writer and professional life coach, Los Angeles, CA

Set reminders

“I set 90-minute reminders on my phone or alarm clock to remind me to get up, stretch, and move around when I’m working at home.”

—Jackie Capers-Brown, founder and CEO, Columbia, SC

Mix music and movement

“Music is everything! No matter how much time I have in the morning, I roll out my mat, wait, and watch to see what unfolds. I let the music move me and my body tell me what it needs. Maybe it’s a few sun salutations, freeform dancing, or a hot sweat with my handheld weights. Not a day goes by where this system doesn’t work.” 

—Meris Gebhardt, meditation expert, New York, NY 

Delegate tasks to your partner

“I squeeze in a 20-30 minute workout as soon as I get home from work while my husband preps dinner. That way I can get some physical activity in without compromising sleep. Sometimes, I start dinner prep and he takes over, allowing me to exercise, or he takes care of dinner entirely.” 

—Royette T. Dubar, assistant professor of psychology at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

Keep it simple — but non-negotiable 

“My calendar keeps me moving. I block out my schedule on Monday nights for yoga, and it’s non-negotiable. During the day, I alternate between sitting and standing at my desk. I’ll even turn on some music and dance wildly in the privacy of my office to get some movement in. My goal is to make it easy and fun, otherwise I won’t do it.”

—Megan Winkler, marketing expert, Dallas, TX

Carry simple exercise equipment

“I spend 10 minutes of my morning routine doing yoga poses with breath work to loosen up my body and get ready for the day. If I feel I need a movement fix during the day and can’t get to a location for a full workout, I pull out my handy-dandy skipping rope. It only takes one minute.” 

—Anna Trader, CEO and entrepreneur, Toronto, Canada

Bring your kids into it 

“When I’m in a crunch for time, I get creative. I do laps around the field at my son’s lacrosse practice, or even bike ride to sports practice with my kids. Sometimes we do interval training together or just a pick-up game of basketball, volleyball, or soccer. I find that including my children in my workouts gives me multiple benefits. I get to spend time with them, teach them healthy habits, be a great role model, and get my movement in for the day!”

—Jannell MacAulay, Ph.D., keynote speaker and consultant, Salt Lake City, UT

Transform your commute into an opportunity to move

“I like to trade public transport for walking or cycling to and from work. Not only does this give me the chance to gear myself up for work and wind down afterward, but it also keeps me away from the crowds and general panic of commuting. I live in a relatively walkable city, but for those who don’t, getting off the bus or metro a couple of stops early can also make a difference.”

—Emily Collins, executive assistant, Milan, Italy

Taking bouncing breaks

“I use a Pomodoro timer during work hours to keep me focused for 25-minute sessions with five-minute me-time breaks in between. During those breaks, I’ll bounce on my mini trampoline in my office. It wakes me up — and it’s fun! Rebounding has a long list of health benefits, including releasing ‘happy hormones.’ I also bounce while I’m at home watching my favorite TV shows at night.”

—Kelly Rudolph, certified life coach and speaker, San Diego, CA 

Let your dogs motivate you 

“I like to walk my dogs first thing every morning to get some sunshine and keep them calm when I start my workday. I have a spot in my hallway that I use as a ‘downward dog spot’: Each time I walk across it, I stretch into downward dog, working on opening my shoulders and heart, stretching my lower back and hamstrings, and energizing my entire body.”

—Francesca Moroney, writer, Edwardsville, IL

Habit-stack your daily routine

“I throw mini ‘workouts’ in while I’m doing other things. For example, I do 100 toe lifts while blow drying my hair, hand and wrist stretches while I’m waiting at stoplights, and squats while watching movies with my son – which he thinks are especially funny.”

—Danielle Dally, corporate restaurant learning and development manager, Atlanta, GA

Supercharge your chore list

“We decided to stop using a housekeeping service. Now that we clean our own house, we get a ‘free’ 400-calorie workout and do a better job maintaining our home between cleanings. Plus, we are that much prouder of our home now.”

—Vish Chatterji, executive coach, Los Angeles, CA

Swap your rolling chair for a floor cushion

“Instead of using a typical desk that is 28 inches tall, using a desk that is 10 inches tall along with floor cushions introduces additional movement into your day. On a typical day, a working adult like myself might sit down and rise about 15-16 times, which would almost be equivalent to doing sets of squats. The custom of floor-sitting has been widely practiced in India and several other countries for centuries, however, its benefits have only been studied by researchers in the recent past.”

—Aditi Joshi, biology faculty, San Francisco CA

Do you have a go-to tip that helps you stay active with a busy schedule? Share it with us in the comments!

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