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12 ways to exercise WITHOUT a gym

Hate the gym? Here are some sneaky ways to get more fitness into your day

Experts are abuzz with a new idea in fitness and guess what? It doesn’t involve the gym.  NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, a fancy way of naming those extra calories we can burn throughout the day not by organised workout session but by increasing our everyday activity.   Anything can count as NEAT, from getting off the bus a stop earlier to putting more oomph into your cleaning and even fidgeting at your desk or standing up while you’re on the phone.   To make life interesting, we have quizzed the experts for novel – and rather tough – fitness moves you can stealthily sneak in as you go about your day.   The best news?  Increasing your NEAT by choosing five of these exercises daily could burn an extra 2-300 calories a day without going near a gym.  Over 12-14 days that could add up to a pound of weight lost.

sneaky fitness

Smart pick-up ‘Do a squat every time you pick something up’, says Julie Brealy, personal trainer and founder of Brealy Boot Camps. ‘Instead of bending over in the usual way, which stresses the lower back, bend your knees and squat. This forces you to use your leg muscles and will build strength’.

At the lights Every time you stop at a traffic light (or the bus does), tighten your thighs and butt muscles, hold for a few seconds and release as many times as you can, suggests Brealy. (Don’t worry, no one will notice!).  This will firm leg and buttock muscles, improve blood flow — and keep you mildly amused.

On your loo break  Bend the knee and grab the left foot behind you bringing it towards your bottom in a classic quadricep stretch.  Hold for ten seconds and repeat on the other side.  Believe it or not, when we sit all day it’s the muscles of the legs contracting and tightening that leads to ‘referred pain’ in the lower back, says Marc Kent, a personal trainer and founder of the Eat Smart Diet Solution.

Standing in line Lift one foot a half-inch off the ground while keeping your pelvis level and engaged and firming your standing leg and pushing your grounded foot into the floor, advises Kent. Switch feet every minute or so.  ‘The extra stress on your opposite foot, ankle, calf and thigh, plus your buttocks, will help firm and tone muscles.


On the Tube Take a big deep breath in and as you breath out engage your core and pelvic floor muscles, says Kent. Do this ten times.  ‘This sneaks a free abdominal workout in during your commute.  An added bonus? Your exhalation is forced to become longer which oxygenates muscles while flushing out toxins and reducing stress from the day.  Not while driving though, it’s soporific!

Brushing your teeth Do side leg raises on one leg, suggests Brealy. ‘Stand on one leg and tighten up your abdominal muscles.  Keep your pelvis facing forward, lift one leg out to the side and bring it back.  Do that ten times and then switch.  Continue until you finish brushing your teeth (which incidentally, should be two minutes to keep your dentist happy).  It fires up those pesky outer thigh muscles most of us want to tone up.

Watching TV   ‘Sit up straight on the sofa,’ says Richard Clarke, personal trainer and founder of  ‘Place a cushion or sponge ball between your knees and squeeze your thighs together’.  Hold this for 2-3 seconds and repeat 20-30 times, rest and repeat up to 20 times.  This incredible inner-thigh melting move can also be done while reading or even sitting at your desk at work (now that’s multi-tasking).

boiling kettle

As the kettle boils  Lean against a wall feet hip width distance apart.  Now gently lower your torso down as you step your feet in front of you about a foot as though you are sitting on an imaginary chair, your back supported by the wall.  Don’t let the back collapse, keep it straight against the wall and keep the knees and inner thighs firmly squeezing inward (as though you’re squeezing an imaginary ball between them).  The lower you come down, the harder this is, so begin with a couple of steps forward so your ankles, knees and hips make a 45 degree angle and build up towards making a 90 degree angle.  For a serious thigh toner, try holding these wall sits for five seconds, breathing evenly, then rest and repeat.  Build up until you can hold it until the kettle has boiled.

Doing the ironing  Stand at the ironing board, feet hip-width distance apart, suggests Marc Kent.  ‘Keeping the shoulders apart, push up onto the balls of the feet, hold for a few seconds and come back down,’ he says.  Do a minute of these, rest a while and do another minute until you have clocked up 5-10 minutes for a nice little (non-iron) burn in those calf muscles.

On the phone  ‘Place one hand on your temple as though you’re saluting someone,’ says Julie Brealy. ‘Now lower you elbow to your hip keeping the tummy tight shoulders back,’ do ten on each side, rest and repeat for the duration of your call (unless it’s that aunt who won’t stop nattering in which case stop after a few minutes!). ‘It’s a great move for the abdominal muscles that helps give you a narrower waistline,’ says Brealy.

In the car Sit upright and pull your belly button backwards towards the spine, advises Richard Clarke.  ‘Hold for a count of 10-30 seconds, breathing gently – don’t hold your breath! – to work your core abdominal muscles and help to flatten your stomach wall.  Try to build up the duration so you can hold it in for up to five minutes’.  Repeat at regular intervals through the day whether while driving, sitting at your desk or watching telly.

Sitting at your desk Do alternate leg squeezes,’ suggests Clarke.  ‘Push your flat foot and heel directly down into the floor and contract the whole leg and hip for 5-10 seconds, then swap legs and repeat, like tiny marches in your seat’.  Aim to hold five seconds on one leg, five on the other leg and repeat for up to ten minutes at a time (or until someone clocks you). Do up to six lots of ten minutes a day, he advises.  ‘Along with toning the entire leg, bottom and hip areas, it strengthens the tummy too.’

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