Until science can deliver motivation in pill form, mankind faces a stark choice: hitting the gym or hitting the couch. No points for guessing which one most of us choose.
Laziness, however, doesn’t have to remain your Achilles heel: enter incidental exercise. “It’s about making the most of your surroundings,” says Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis, associate professor of exercise, health and physical activity at the University of Sydney. “While you can’t always be lifting weights or running, you can be consistently moving.”
The message? Make your everyday surroundings your gym and your mindless daily routines your workout regimen. Without much effort, you’ll be the fittest lazy man who ever rolled off the couch. Here’s 38 ways to get the ball rolling.
1 Take the stairway to heaven
A study from the University of Pennsylvania found people who climbed two flights of stairs every day were on average 2.7 kilograms lighter than non-stair climbers. Taking the stairs instead of the lift also reduces risk of coronary heart disease and burns kilojoules three times faster than plain walking.
2 Chill the f#@k out
You won’t find a cooler way to burn fat. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found turning down the thermostat to 17°C two hours a day for six weeks resulted in participants dropping an average of five per cent body fat.
3 Stand to attention
In the office, phone calls to colleagues should be your last resort, says Stamatakis. Same goes for emailing someone two desks away. Deliver messages in person, and if a phone call is absolutely necessary, stand up to burn kilojoules, stretch your legs and improve circulation.
4 Fidget Fidgeting
May drive others crazy but can burn up to 1300 extra kilojoules a day. Keep that up for a year and you’ve burnt enough kilojoules to equate to about 14kg lost from limb-jiggling alone. Boredom and anxiety are sure-fire body janglers. No dice? Take your cue from Novak Djokovic and stretch every spare moment you have.
5 Find a crap parking spot
Leave dream sports for corporate fat cats. A round trip of 400 metres a day adds up to a couple of extra kilometres a week, says Stamatakis. Same deal on trains. Get off a stop earlier – you can use the extra time it’ll take to get to work on your excuse for being late.
6 Embrace the man bag
Carry your gear in a bag rather than a backpack. “Having to carry weight in one hand doesn’t only improve grip and shoulder strength, but also core strength, particularly through the obliques,” says Chief Brabon, founder of Original Bootcamp. Swap hands every 30 steps and add extra weight if you’re feeling adventurous.
7 Act up during the ads
Like to zonk out in front of reality TV at the end of a hard day? Great, then use the ad breaks to erase your guilt. Pump out 10 push-ups, 10 burpees, 10 sit-ups, rest for 10 seconds and repeat, advises personal trainer Cam Byrnes. You’ll finish just in time to see the next My Kitchen Rules hopeful have his bolognaise ripped to shreds.
THE OFFICE WORKOUT
One day, enlightened folks may look back on sitting at a desk all day the same way we smug fellows look at smoking indoors. Until then, dodge death in the chair with these exercises from The Office Workout: 75 Exercises to do at Your Desk by Kent Burden. They’ll improve your strength, balance and flexibility . . . and make your ignorant, misguided coworkers wonder what the hell you’re doing.
8 Chair squats
Sit on a chair with feet hip distance apart. Bring your arms out in front of you at shoulder height with your palms pointed towards the centreline of your body. Stand up, then lower your bum back to the seat without fully plonking your weight down. Rise and repeat for one minute. Bonus points if the boss is watching.
9 Chest squeeze
Begin by sitting upright in your seat with your core muscles engaged and spine elongated. Bring both hands in front of your chest with palms together and elbows pointing outward. Squeeze your palms together like you’re crushing a grape for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat at least once.
10 The hover
No one likes a hoverer, but this version won’t annoy your colleagues too much. Begin by sitting upright in your seat with your core muscles engaged. Place your hands firmly on the surface of your seat. Push downward, lifting your body in the air. Hover as long as you can, repeating until your arse has been airborne for one minute total.
11 Incline leg pull-down
Stand a metre from your desk. Bring yourself into a push-up position with your hands on the desk and your feet on the floor. Keeping your core engaged and your bum down, press your left foot firmly into the ground and lift your right foot as high as you can for 30 seconds. Repeat on your left.
12 Sumo step
Stand with your legs twice shoulder-width apart. Lower your bum 15-25 centimetres, bringing you into a wide-legged squat position. Shift your weight over to your right foot and slowly lift your left foot 10cm off the ground. Hold for five seconds, then lower your left foot back to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue for one minute. Haters? Know you can wrestle them to the ground.
13 Seated chair twist
Sit upright with both feet on the floor. Gently turn to the right, keeping your spine long, yet relaxed. With your right arm, reach to the back of your chair as you twist your torso as if you’re looking behind you. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Use tech to track your your toil
14 Do the hard yards
Can’t get out for a lunchtime stroll? Don’t bother. The TR1200-DT7 Treadmill Desk allows you to walk all day at your desk. With an average walking speed of 5km/h, you’ll be burning 468kJ an hour. (infiniti.com.au; $2999)
15 Get a grip
Add some sturdiness to your feeble hand shake with a handgrip. Do regular sets of 10 for arm-crushing strength and endurance. (griptraining.com.au; $19.95)
16 Have a ball
How do you burn an extra 1500kJ a day without getting off your arse? You sit smugly on a Swiss ball while maintaining superior spine alignment. (swissballs.com.au; $79.95)
17 Watch the burn
What use is taking the long route to the photocopier if you can’t track your burn? Use a Fitbit Surge to log steps, distance travelled, floors climbed and active minutes. One day it might even spit out data on the dimensions of that smug grin you’re wearing. (fitbit.com.au; $399.95)
18 Good vibrations
You’re the type of guy who likes to stand and deliver? A vibrating platform is your type of kit. These fancy contraptions strengthen and tone muscles, build stronger bones and improve circulation, all while you stand still as statue. Ten minutes of good vibes can help you burn almost 200kJ. (hypervibe.com.au; $1995)
19 Join the resistance
Compared with weights, resistance bands let you move more freely and with greater range of motion, allowing you to launch 360° attacks on your muscles. Resistance is no longer futile. (resistancebandsaustralia.com.au; $119.99)
WALK IT OFF
Stretching your legs is at the heart of incidental movement. See how the benefits stack up the more steps you take
20 One minute of walking . . .
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that walking between one and 29 minutes a day lowered stroke risk by seven per cent compared with non-walkers.
21 Ten minutes . . .
Taking four brisk 10-minute walks a day lowers your blood pressure enough to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to research at Indiana State University.
22 Fifteen minutes . . .
Step up to power-walk pace (140 steps per minute) and you’ll shed over 400kJ every 15 minutes. That’s a stubbie of light beer erased from your gut records.
23 Twenty minutes . . .
Twenty minutes of walking a day means lower stress levels, according to the Annals of Behavioural Medicine. This is caused by the effect of active distraction and the release of feel-good endorphins.
24 Thirty-five minutes . . .
Studies on anxiety sufferers published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found walking for thirty minutes at power-walk pace followed by a five-minute rest reduced the effects of mental tension on the body by two-thirds.
25 Forty-five minutes . . .
Studies from Appalachian State University found those who take daily 45-minute strolls are able to kick colds 50 per cent faster than non-strollers due to walking boosting production of germ-killing cells.
26 Ninety minutes . . .
An hour and a half at a constant 6km/h pace burns approximately 2340kJ for the average male. That’ll cancel out your lunchtime ham and cheese toastie.
27 Three hours . . .
It’ll be tough to convince your boss to let you take a three-hour stroll. But clocking up 180 minutes over a full week will have huge benefits – you’ll slash your risk of a heart attack by an artery-widening 40 per cent, according to a 20-year Harvard study.
28 Five hours . . .
The slim man’s best friend 300 minutes of walking a week will see you burn 3.2kg over a year. A study from the University of New South Wales found dog owners on average complete 300 minutes a week, where as the pooch-less manage just half that.
29 Get 8½ hours
Can’t be bothered getting out of bed? Then don’t. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that men who kipped 8.5 hours a night lost 3kg more than those who slept for six hours.
30 Kick off your kicks
It takes 53 per cent more energy to walk on the balls of your feet (the way a barefoot runner would) than to walk on your heels (the way a shoe wearer would), found research in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Tiptoe through imaginary tulips all day long.
31 Let Mario do the work
Playing video games against someone else increases your testosterone, found research in Evolution and Human Behaviour. The big T helps build muscle mass and the extra brawn burns more kilojoules when you’re kicking back with the controller in your mitts.
32 Don’t eat al desko
Make every lunch an event by eating in a different location every day. Dining at your desk is more likely to lead to distraction, encouraging overeating then and later in the day, according to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology. Eating in a less stimulating location encourages more “mindful” eating.
33 Up the tempo
Listening to music that builds in tempo during your workout raises your heart rate, which helps you train harder, burn more kilojoules and guards against fatigue, according to research in the Journal of Physiology.
34 Wander the aisles
Pretend you’re a rat in a lab experiment by browsing every aisle in the supermarket, even if you don’t intend on buying anything. You’ll rack up extra steps for a Fitbit bonanza (see no.17) and may even find some new, healthy foods to eat.
35 Get frisky
As well as burning 600kJ every 20 minutes, sex also increases your metabolism and lean muscle growth, reports a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
36 Ramp up your rest
Don’t just drop dumbbells on the floor and zone out at the end of your set. Pace the room. Walking around after exercise keeps your fat-fighting enzymes working, reports the Journal of Human Kinetics.
37 Mow it slow
Cutting your grass can trim your gut. Sharpen the burn by taking the catcher off next time you mow the lawn and rake up the grass afterwards. “It’ll feel like you just completed a full-body workout,” says Byrnes.
38 Cut a rug
A recent study from the University of Brighton has found certain types of dance – contemporary, street and swing – can burn up to 1800kJ kilojoules an hour.