Add more activity to your day without changing your routine

Every January, many people make the same New Year’s resolution: to be fitter and more active on a day-to-day basis. Most people know that being active can improve your health and help you feel better, no matter your age or background.

But modern life keeps people so busy that making time for exercise remains a challenge. And in many parts of the country, winter weather can make it unpleasant — or even unhealthy — to spend much time outside.

Try working out at home

There are simple ways you can be more active without expensive classes or trips to the gym. Fitness apps and online videos are a great start, since they’re designed to lead you through full-on workouts wherever you are.

But if you’re really pressed for time, ordinary household chores can be a great way to get moving. And with a little creativity, you can add movement to make these everyday tasks even more beneficial.

Remember not to overdo it, especially if you’re just getting started. Moderate exercise has been shown to give you the same great effects as more intense activity. A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 30 minutes a day of even gentle activity — including light household chores — helped lower the risk of death in older women by 12%.*

Here are a few simple exercises you can combine with everyday tasks. Not only will you build strength and burn some calories, you’ll get to enjoy a clean, comfy home when you’re done.

There’s no need to wear workout clothes, but be sure to wear nonslip shoes.

When you wash dishes, do calf raises

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lift your heels and rise onto your tiptoes, then slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat 12-15 times.
  • Work up to 3 sets.

Benefits: Builds lower leg strength and increases ankle flexibility.

As you empty the dishwasher, do squats

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Sit back and down like you’re sitting in an imaginary chair.
  • Keep your knees over your ankles and your weight in your heels.
  • Lower yourself down until your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible.
  • Keep your tummy pulled in as you push through your heels to straighten back up.
  • Start with 3 sets of 10.

Benefits: Builds leg and core strength, burns calories, and promotes better balance.

While unloading groceries, do bicep curls with soup cans

  • Standing tall with your arms by your sides, hold a soup can in each hand.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body as you slowly curl the cans up toward your shoulders.
  • Slowly lower them back down.
  • Repeat 8 to 12 times.

Benefits: Tones the arms and builds stability in the shoulders and back.

Wiping down the counter? Do some counter pushups

  • Face the countertop and place your hands on the edge, about shoulder-width apart.
  • Step your feet back about 2 steps and slightly lift your heels, so your body forms a plank at an angle to the counter.
  • Lower your chest toward the counter while keeping your elbows in.
  • Press your body back to your starting position.
  • Do sets of 3-5 reps, building up to sets of 8-12 reps, and resting in between sets.

Benefits: Strengthens the chest, shoulders, and abdominal muscles.

Briskly sweep the floor for a cardio burst

  • Grab a broom and put it to work, as quickly as you can, for 1 minute.
  • Sweep at a normal pace for the next 2 minutes.
  • Repeat the 3-minute combination 5 times.

Benefits: Short, intense intervals of cardiovascular exercise help burn calories and increase aerobic capacity.

*Nicholas Bakalar, “Even Light Activity May Increase Your Chances of Living Longer,” New York Times, November 16, 2017.


Want more local health news, wellness tips, recipes, and more? Subscribe to the Kaiser Permanente Washington newsletter.