No Time Or Sweat To Spare? Try These Five Easy Exercises Instead
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
In my experience as a generally active human being, I've realized there's a fine line between starting my day feeling great and starting my day feeling like a loaf. If I can fit any movement into my day—even a quick 15-minute HIIT session in the morning—I always feel better and function way better than I would have had I done nothing. I'm not anti-rest day (because let's be real: We all live for those), but some days I just crave a little movement. Not too much but enough to feel better.
While most people's reason for not exercising is that they don't have time, that's not really the issue for me. Even when I have time (or can make time), there are other factors that can derail my motivation to work out: The time it takes to commute to a gym or studio, having to lay out workout clothes and pack up the next day's workwear, make my breakfast and lunch, or even the thought of sweating and having to shower and get ready in a crowded, stuffy locker room are all reasons I've used not to move. And if I'm being honest, there are days that I wake up with absolutely no motivation to work out, only to feel my tight muscles or guilt hit me later in the day.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Any movement is valuable movement—and you don't have to sweat a ton to feel good about the movement you do. I started looking for different moments during my day where I thought I could fit in movement and consulted one of my favorite personal trainers and fitness experts, Alex Silver Fagan, to make sure these movements had real benefits.
Here are five easy movements you can do during the day that will have your soul and body feeling great—no gym or equipment necessary:
1. Do a one-minute plank before bed.
This is one habit I'm actually proud of. Despite being a workout fiend, I have a notoriously weak core (it's a chicken/egg situation: I don't know which came first, my weak core or poor posture), and chances are, you do too. Most of the classes I go to leave core exercises by the wayside, which is unfortunate given how important core strength is to our daily well-being, especially our posture.
According to Alex, planks are one of the most efficient exercises you can do (when done right, of course):
"Planks give you more bang for your buck than most other exercises. Make sure to keep your shoulder blades pulled apart and your hips in line with your chest so that you don't dip into your lower back. Breathe and work on that discipline!"
When I began trying to make planks a nightly habit, I set a notification on my phone to go off around 9:30 p.m., and I'd either do it right then and there or wait until right before I got into bed to wind down. After a few instances of getting into bed, turning off my lamp, and remembering "Oh wait, I have to do my plank," it became a full-fledged daily habit! You'll be surprised by how accomplished you feel after, and the best part? No equipment means no excuses–you can literally do a plank anywhere.
2. Try hip stretches and/or sun salutations.
If you haven't heard: Our hips hold a lot of tension, particularly for those of us who sit all day. Doing any sort of hip stretch (I love pigeon pose, but any of these will work) can release tension and make us feel better physically and mentally. Plus, Alex says that sun salutations "allow your body to move and flow without strain," and who doesn't want that?
3. Walk up and down the stairs a few times a day.
Yes, you've heard this advice before—but are you doing it? Allow Alex to tell you why you should.
"[Stairs are] the best, most underutilized fitness option around. They work your legs but mostly your cardiovascular system, and guess what...they're free!"
4. Walk to (or part of the way to) work.
One could argue that getting outside is more important now than ever—so if you're close enough to walk to work, do it up! If you live a little too far from work, like I do, my solution is to walk part of the way. (This method comes in handy when I'm too sore to work out or am taking a rest day.) Instead of getting on the subway at my normal stop, I'll budget enough time to walk through the park I live near, which not only helps me get my steps in, but I also get to skip a couple of stops of my commute. I consider that a win-win.
Alex's advice? Use your walk to clear your head and spend time away from screens.
"There's nothing like taking a walk with or without music to clear the head. Try to keep your phone in your pocket and focus on breathing. Bonus: You'll be working your cardio system with some nice low-steady-state intensity."
5. Do some calf raises while you're standing around.
Think about how much of our day we spend waiting—waiting in line, waiting for food to cook, or begging the water to just boil already. What if we made a little more use of that time? According to Alex, ankles and calves are very neglected when it comes to mobility and stretching. "They also lead to a lot of issues in the knees and hips if they're ignored." Next time you're standing around, try doing some calf raises (or single-leg calf raises, if you prefer a challenge). You'll kill time and have killer calves. Make that two win-wins.
See? There are plenty of ways to squeeze movement into your day, you just need some exercises (which you now have) and yourself (which you'll always have). What are you waiting for? Go kill it!
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction. A runner, yogi, boxer, and cycling devotee, Bass searches for the hardest workouts in New York (and the best ways to recover from them). She's debunked myths about protein, posture, and the plant-based diet, and has covered everything from the best yoga poses for chronic pain to the future of fitness, recovery, and America's obsession with the Whole30 diet.