25 Ways to Exercise Without “Working Out”

I want to get in shape, but I hate all exercise!

To be honest, the first time I heard this it baffled me….until I realized that you didn’t actually mean it. Oh, I know you think you mean it, buuuut you don’t. For now, just trust me and keep reading….

I really believe this all has to do with a misunderstanding of what exercise is and what it’s for. So let’s talk about that.

What exercise is: You might think you hate exercise, but I think you actually just dislike the current idea of what exercise is and I can’t say that I blame you.

In Western culture we think of exercise as a necessary evil to achieve a certain look or as punishment for allowing ourselves to get out of shape. We think of it in strict and structured terms, with things like gyms, time frames, expensive equipment, intensity, sweating, pain, and soreness. If you don’t like this form of exercise, that’s perfectly OK. That’s just one form of exercise. The simple fact is that any kind of movement IS exercise.

Now if you don’t like to move then we have a problem because movement is life. Without it, you’re just sitting on your couch….all day…doing nothing…and that’s not living.

Movement is life. Movement is exercise. Your body was made to move.

What exercise is for: Most think of exercise as a necessary evil for getting to the size or weight that we desire, so we run ourselves into the ground only to find that we feel worse than we did before. The brutal truth is that exercise alone will not get you the physique you desire. I could sight all sorts of studies or just talk about my professional experience, but most of you already know this because you’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, well if exercise doesn’t make me lose weight, then why would I exercise at all?!

How about because it feels good. Because it’ll keep you strong and able to do the things you love to do. Because it boosts the immune system and decreases the risk of many common diseases. Because it reduces stress and anxiety and improves cognitive abilities like attention span, memory, problem solving, and creativity (to name a few). Because it makes you happy. Because it’s fun.

While exercise alone might not be the best for weight loss, it will enhance your overall health and wellbeing and I would hope that that is enough reason to get up and move a bit more.

So in order to help you think outside of the box (gym), here are 25 fun ways to exercise without even noticing that you’re doing so…..

Picnic – Instead of meeting for coffee or a at restaurant, meet up with friends at a park. Bring something fun to do after the meal, like frisbee or bocce ball.

Take a Trip to the Zoo – Walking is the most underrated exercise of the last few decades. There are so many benefits we get from walking. Our bodies were made to walk. It absolutely counts as exercise. This is just a fun way to get lots of walking in.

Parkour/Free Running – The tricks are cool, but even more than that is the idea of making the world your playground and teaching your body to move with fluidity and grace in any circumstance. This is next on my list of new things to try.

Martial Arts – Who doesn’t want to learn exactly where to karate chop a guy to render him immediately unconscious….or just let off some steam by kicking and punching stuff.

Join a Rec League – For those who miss the competition and camaraderie that comes from sports, it doesn’t have to end after college!

Hiking – What’s not to love? Fresh air, sunshine, great views, quality time with friends, and your dogs love it too! Plus, it’s been shown that being in natural environments decreases stress and increases mood.

House Work – OK, fun might not be the best describing word for this, but it’s at least a 2-for-1 deal. And I know there are more people out than we would care to admit that have a little bit of Monica in them!


If you don’t know what’s happening here, then I can’t help you

While the process might not be all that enjoyable, I think most of us would agree that the end product is. Crank up your favorite tunes and check off exercise and house work from the to-do list. 😀

Yard Work/Gardening – See the above reasons, plus you get some vitamin D. Pull weeds, mow the lawn, plant some pretty flowers, or grow your own herbs or veggies!

Biking – Ride to work or to the red box or to get ice cream! Anything counts!

Get a dog – Not only do they provide tons of laughs and companionship, they are a great way to hold you accountable to getting out for a walk a few times a week….or at least, getting up to the let them out every once in a while. 😉

Rock climbing – Whether it’s natural rock or a climbing gym, rock climbing is an amazing upper body workout and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching the top.

Play with your kids – “Auntie Beth, chase me!” My nephew LOVES chasing and being chased right now. I know I know, kids always want to play, but even just a 15 minute break in the afternoon to chase, wrestle, roll around in the grass, walk to a playground, help them build a fort….this is time well spent.

Play kids games – Anyone remember capture the flag? How about dodgeball, pickle, foursquare, or tetherball?! Get a couple of crazy friends together and try not to have too much fun. 😉

Go Ice Blocking – Summer time sledding at it’s best. Buy some big ice blocks from a gas station, find a hill, ride the ice block like a sled. Walk back up the hill and repeat.

Trampoline Park – An hour is more than enough time to get your hear rate up and your sweat on! I also noticed that they actually offer fitness classes as well. Although, most of you probably know someone that would let you jump on their trampoline for free. 😉

fun exercise jumping

Yes, I did take my sister here for her bachelorette party and I think it’s safe to say we had a blast 🙂

Knockout – You don’t even need to be a great shot to enjoy this game (although it helps ;)), but this one is fun for all skill levels and ages.

Spikeball – Super fun for those looking for a new game or challenge.

Alone time with your spouse – Enough said. 😉

Wash Your Car – Not my favorite, but another twofer that I know really gets some people jazzed!

Swimming/Water Sports – Whether it’s good old fashioned swimming or the endless possibilities involving boards or boats or breathing apparatuses of some kind, if you’re in the water you’re sure to be getting a workout and having fun at the same time.  

Create Your Own Obstacle Course – You don’t need to go all Ninja Warrior to do this. Just find some things to jump over, crawl under, climb up, and/or spin around and you’ve got yourself a course.

Get a ping-pong table – Or a basketball hoop or pool table or corn hole! It’s just nice to have some fun alternatives to watching TV.

Foam roll or stretch while watching TV – I’m not one who’s going to tell you to stop watching TV, but sitting is hard on your body so any time you can get a little extra movement in, it will benefit your body. I like to throw some yoga moves in there too.

Get a Wii or Kinect – Play games without ever having to leave the house.

Dancing – Music has a such profound effect on us. It has the ability to spur your body into movement and to completely change your mood. Jam out at home or take a class. Hip hop, salsa, swing, breakdancing, ballroom, tap…the possibilities are endless.

You probably noticed that a lot of these things involved playing. As the responsibilities start to pile up, it’s easy to put something like play or learning new skills on the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are so many mental and physical benefits to continuing to play and explore as an adult!

You don’t have to go on vacation to be adventurous and you don’t have to be a certain age to play! What’s that one thing that you’ve always wanted to try?? Be brave. Take a friend with you if need be. But go out and try it! Your body will thank you later!