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12 ways to get fitter without going to gym

4 May 2021
4 minute read

You don’t have to run 10km a day or join a daily spinning class to get the exercise you need to stay healthy. There are plenty of fun ways to get your heart going and your body moving. Even games, chores and errands help, if you do them with some oomph!

Being active is one of the best things you can do to help maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of heart disease and strokes, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa. The good news is that any activity that gets you slightly out of breath and the heart pumping faster, counts - and you even a short session is better than nothing, especially if you make it a daily habit.

“Just 10 to 30 minutes of activity a day, even if it’s just walking, can make a big difference to your physical health,” says Johannesburg personal trainer John Lawson. The benefits aren’t only physical - the mood-raising benefits of exercise are well known, and even mild activity can even improve your memory function.

Look at these 12 small things you can do that will help keep you in shape. And you don’t need to pay fees or buy expensive equipment:

Get your daily dose
Sneak those steps in doing your everyday things.

Have walking meetings: If you are back in the office with colleagues, suggest a ‘walking meeting’. Head out and walk a few blocks instead of sitting at a desk. If you are working at home, wear your earphones and walk around the garden while you take your calls.

Ditch the trolley: Shopping can add a whole lot of steps to your day. And if you ditch the trolley, you can get some muscle action, too. Instead of wheeling your groceries to the car, carry your shopping bags to build your arm strength.

Park further away: We tend to look for the closest parking spot, but a good habit is to pick a far one and get those extra steps in. If you take a taxi, and your stop is close to your destination, get off a bit early and walk a few blocks to get the blood pumping.

Use the stairs: Instead of the elevator, climb the stairs. The stairs work the major muscle groups in the legs and glutes and raise the heart rate.

Top tip: Make these steps count! With 1Life Pulse Life Cover you can earn up to R500 000 additional cover over two years when you make small lifestyle changes like taking the stairs. Find out more or get a quote here.*

Do more chores: Anyone who cleans a house or digs a flower bed knows what a good workout it can be! So, grab that mop and take to the floors.

Have fun!
When you play, you move - and that means exercise!

Dance by yourself: Dancing gets you moving and is sure to raise your heart rate and your mood. Put on some of your favourite dance songs and let your hair down.

Play catch: Get some quick and easy exercise at the park or on the beach with a frisbee, a bat and ball set or a volleyball net.

Hula hoop. It’s a fine workout for your abdominals and your sense of humour! Hula in front of the TV, or when you take a break from your desk.

Jump on a trampoline or a pilates ball: A mini trampoline is a good way to do some moderately strenuous activity, and it’s also good fun. Put it in your lounge and bounce a bit while you watch TV.

Get into nature: Aside from getting more steps in, a walk in nature - a mountain trail, a city park, or on a beach - nourishes your mind and spirit. It’s a great happiness boost to boot!

Exercise anywhere
You don’t need to be at the gym to work those muscles.

Exercise in bed: Before you get up, squeeze in a few bed exercises. One is leg lifts, where you lie flat on your back with your arms at your sides, lifting and lowering your legs one by one. If you have a reasonably firm mattress, another exercise is the bridge. Lie on your back with arms straight at your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the bed, and lift your buttocks. Check this YouTube video for these and more exercises you can do in bed.

Exercise in the car: If you’re stuck in traffic or waiting for your child to come out of school, take the opportunity to work your arms and core. This YouTube video shows you how.

Top tip: Enlisting a friend - human or canine - makes getting out and about more fun, and their expectation of a daily outing will motivate you to get off the sofa or away from the desk.

Exercise is best seen as being part and parcel of your daily life, rather than an activity that you have to plan and make time for. “Even a 2km walk a day will make a difference,” says Lawson. You can find fun ways to fit it in, wherever you are - start today!

Find more about heart health and get more exercise tips from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa.

*1Life Pulse is an optional benefit available from only R150 a month.

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