1. Take yourself off cruise control. Increase the intensity of your everyday tasks, from vacuuming to walking the dog, recommends Douglas Brooks, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer in Northern, CA. “Turn on some music, add in some vigorous bursts, and enjoy the movement,” he says.
2. Step it up—and down. Climbing stairs is a great leg strengthener, because you’re lifting your body weight against gravity. In addition to taking the stairs at every opportunity, try stepping up and down on the curb while you’re waiting for the bus or filling your gas tank, says Brooks.
3. Put a pen between your shoulder blades. You’ll burn calories (and look thinner) when you stand tall. To improve posture, Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, an exercise physiologist and professor at California State University, Northridge, recommends the following shoulder girdle crunch: Stand or sit with your arms relaxed at your sides, palms facing forward. Visualize a pen placed vertically between your shoulder blades, and squeeze them together as if you were trying to hold the pen in place. Hold for a count of 6, relax, and repeat 12 times. (Check out these 7 weird ways bad posture messes with your health.)
4. Think of bags as dumbbells. When you let someone else load your groceries or carry your suitcase, you’re missing a great opportunity for strengthening and calorie burning, says certified coach Beth Rothenberg, who teaches a class for fitness professionals at UCLA. “Carry your groceries, balanced with a bag in each hand, even if you have to make several trips,” she says. “And pack two smaller suitcases instead of one big one, so you can carry them yourself.”
5. Have a ball. Replace your desk chair with a giant exercise ball, says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, where many staffers have adopted this idea. “You have to engage the core muscles to maintain stability,” he says, “so you’re getting a great workout right at your desk.” (Find the best exercise ball for you withworkout tools for maximum firming.)
6. Go the distance. “Stop using the closest rest room, parking space, or vending machine,” says Minneapolis fitness trainer Sandra Swami. As the instructor of a program that’s designed to help working women get more active, Swami urges her clients to get in the habit of taking the longest route to the rest room (on a different floor, if that’s possible) and climb stairs to get there.
7. Do chair-robics. Set a timer to ring hourly, advises Swami. “When it goes off, stand up, and sit down slowly four times,” she says. “This will boost circulation and give you a nice stretch, and you’ll be doing 4 squats an hour, or 32 a day. That’s a great way to strengthen your lower body.”
8. Play waiting games. Don’t just sit there while your computer is downloading or the copier is collating. Do a stretch (place both hands behind your head, open your elbows, and lean back), try balancing on one leg, or do a few buttocks squeezes.