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Sneaky Ways to Burn More Calories When You Don't Have Time to Exercise

Updated on September 15, 2014

Peer pressure isn't always motivating.

I remember the days when people used to jog, wearing old sweats and tshirts they'd gotten for free from sporting events. Afterwards they might have a light breakfast. It may or may not come up in casual conversation, or if you asked how someone managed to stay so thin or look so alert in the morning. Those days are gone.

People don't jog amymore. They run. They train. A light breakfast is now "juicing," "detoxing," or "rehydrating." You know all about it if you're friends on Facebook or Twitter. You'll be subjected to endless flattering, stomach sucked in selfies of people wearing extremely expensive spandex workout clothing, and you can even see their routes and how many miles they've completed, thanks to fitness apps.

I don't know about you, but when a coworker tells me that he left his wife in charge of their three kids while he went out training for his marathon for three and a half hours, and that this happens five nights a week, then that same coworker criticizes his wife for not exerising more to stay in shape, I get annoyed. Obviously, there is a middle ground. You do not need three and a half hours a day, five nights a week to become more active.

In a perfect world, we will all be able to devote an hour a day, three or four days a week to fitness, however, life doesn't always allow that. There are going to be times when you're legitimately too busy, or maybe you'll have health issues that prevent heavy exercise. This can be depressing, and it's very easy to get in the habit of saying "I'll work out when I have time." This vague "when I have time" date will probably never come, if this is your attitude.

Exercise is not an all or nothing endeavor. Increasing your movement throughout the day will help you burn calories, it will give you more energy, and boost your mood. You can work on all of these things even on days when you're running between daycare, work, school, night school or college, soccer, karate, ballet, grocery shopping, and church.

Adjustable Standing Desk

This work space can be adjusted for sitting or standing.
This work space can be adjusted for sitting or standing. | Source

At work

If you're working at an office job, you probably spend much of your day sitting. This puts you in danger of the dreaded "secretary butt." Here are some sneaky ways to be more active, thus burning more calories, throughout the work days.

  • Try standing more. There's still some controversy surrounding standing desks. Some people say they're wonderful and that you should never sit. Some people say standing desks will create different health problems over time. I can say that using a desk that allows you to sit or stand throughout the day as needed has been a nice thing. I have more energy throughout the day, my posture is better, and because of the natural propensity for fidgeting, I feel like I'm getting more use out of all my muscles. You don't need to stand all day every day, nor do you need to spend money on an actual "standing desk" set up. Mine was created out of a removeable shelf and some outdated law books I took from a disused office. Standing is something you need to work up to, so try it for thirty minutes or so at a time. There are days I do half sitting, half standing, and days I sit and stand every hour or so. If I'm not feeling well, I will sit all day and not feel badly about it. If standing while typing is not an option, stand while you're making phone calls.
  • Use those legs! Print from a printer further from your chair, and use the copier down the hall. Take the long waythe restroom and use the stairs instead of the elevator if you can. Walk around the building once or twice on your lunch break. Go talk to someone face to face instead of using the phone or email. Make your department mail runs instead of waiting for the mail runner to come to you. You're not going to drop fifteen pounds overnight, but you'll be using and toning muscles, and over the year that will add up to a fitter looking figure.
  • Isometrics. Isometrics are small, discreet exercises you can do pretty much anywhere. Red lights, on planes, at your desk. While I'm standing, I like to take a minute to expand and conract certain mucles throughout my body, throughout the day. Here are a list of office isometrics. http://entrepreneurs.about.com/od/lifebalance/a/deskexercise.htm

So you're stuck in the car all day.

Driving around can be exhausting. Whether you're a truck driver or just need to commute frequently, that can feel like wasted time. There are some ways to help counteract all that immobilized sitting.

  • Isometrics again. Now, obviously, when you're driving, you should be driving. Not texting or doing tummy exercises. But sometimes when you're driving you're not actually doing more than sitting at a red light, or sitting stopped in a traffic jam. You can use this time you're not in motion for more isometrics. Here are some isometric exercises you can do to stretch out that road rage:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/14/AR2006081400879.html
  • Take advantage of inconvenient parking. I try not to be frustrated when I'm not able to park closely to my destination. It's an excuse to walk. In fact, you're getting TWO short walks - from your car, then back to your car. If you commute to work, make it easy to park further away by keeping sensible shoes in the car. This way you won't be tempted to park closely because you're wearing heels or slick dress shoes. In a parking lot, park at the back. This makes getting out of your parking space less frustrating, too, because you won't have as many pedestrians and other drivers creating obstacles.
  • Large, reusable grocery bags. Don't think of these as a burden - think of them as free weights. Loading up your big cloth bags and slinging them over each shoulder creates a weight, which you can carry to your car at the back of the lot.

Be more active at home.

Sneaky exercise at home can create a catch-22. On one hand, if you had a more efficient chore/family care setup, you might have more time to exercise. On the other, is that more efficient setup a pipe dream, created by too many hours of watching Home and Garden TV? Probably. If you're going to be inefficient, make it work for you. I know sometimes we want to go home and just relax, but if we're more active throughout the day and while we're doing our chores, we'll have more energy in the long run so that we don't want to collapse the moment we'e home.

  • Stairs are your friend. I sometimes exercise myself the same way I exercise my fat, lazy cats: forcing myself to make multiple trips up and down the stairs for necessary items. My laundry and ironing setup is in the basement, as are the litter boxes. Doing laundry and keeping sanitary conditions in the basement requies a few trips up and down each day.
  • What do you do when you're watching TV? You may not watch much TV, but if you do, you can minimize couch potato time by doing sets of pushups, situps, stretches, etc. You don't need a gym to build muscles, just your own body weight.
  • Standing while doing housework is time not spent sitting on your butt. I don't have a microwave or a dishwasher, and I use home drycleaning so that I'm forced to stand and iron. Standing while cooking, doing dishes, and ironing clothes is time that you can say you're not being a couch potato, and it counts as activity, if not an actual workout.
  • Try to walk the dog more. It's really easy to get into the comfortable habit of letting the dog run around the fenced yard, or putting him out on his lead, but a few times a week, taking him on a quick walk around the block will build your relationship as well as helping your heart. Go ahead, call it "cardio." You've earned it.


There are all kinds of active lifestyles.

You don't need to belong to a gym or belong to an organized sport to say you're living a more active lifestyle. Living your own lifestyle in a more active way is the first step to improve your health, have more energy, and burn more calories throughout the day.

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