How much exercise should you be doing? What kinds of training are best for you? How can you fit an effective training regimen into your already busy schedule?
These are all questions you’ve probably wondered about before (we all have), and they’re definitely worth exploring.
But too many people overemphasize formal exercise while neglecting informal movement for the other 15 hours a day (assuming you do an hour of exercise a day, which is a lot!).
Studies show that non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) or non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) is far more important for overall health and longevity. That doesn’t mean formal exercise isn’t important—it is! But we have so many more opportunities for informal movement throughout the day that it can have a much greater impact on our health and wellbeing.
Lots of people will just give the advice to “walk more” or “take the stairs” but there are so many more fun and unique ways to achieve NEAT and get more daily movement practice. To prove it, we put together this ridiculously long list of ideas 😉
Here’s what you’ll find in this guide to getting more daily movement practice:
- Fun ways to turn regular housework into practice
- How to get some exercise at the office
- Lots of ideas for movement play while you’re out and about
- Tips for integrating skills with your workout
- Movement practices you can do anywhere, anytime
- Our top recommended movements to try
- How to actually use all the tips and advice on this page
👉 You can also download a cheatsheet with even more ideas and resources.
How is This Guide Different from All Those Other Lists on the Internet?
The importance of NEAT/NEPA is becoming more popular, which is great, but let’s be honest. Most lists of ideas you’ll find on the Googles are just plain… lame and boring. You’re not going to be motivated to incorporate more movement into your day if it’s not fun or interesting.
Simply parking further from the store isn’t enough to make you want to move more throughout your day.
In this guide, we’ve tried to give you as many interesting and different ideas as possible. That doesn’t mean you should try to do them all—that would be silly. Just pick the ones that speak to you or seem like fun.
A lot of other lists of non-exercise activity thermogenesis ideas also pretend that the biggest benefit of doing more of these kinds of activities is to burn extra calories and lose weight. While there may be some impact on weight maintenance, the purpose of doing these activities shouldn’t be to lose weight—the impact on your metabolism will likely be minimal.
So, what is the point?
Well, you probably know this by now, but weight loss is not the only marker of health. Doing more of these kinds of activities is good for your cardiovascular system and might actually help you live longer. Plus, it just makes your day-to-day activities a lot more fun and interesting!
We’ve trained over 60,000 clients from all backgrounds, and we’ve seen how much of an impact regular movement can make in people’s lives, both physically and mentally.
It’s well worth the effort!
OK, are you ready to dig in?
Let’s do it. Feel free to skip ahead to the section that interests you most:
11 Ways to Get More Movement Practice at Home
Your home is probably the easiest place to get more movement practice. You do so much around your house that you probably don’t even think about! Any part of your morning or evening routine, or other things you do around the house, can be an opportunity to change things up.
Here are some ideas.
1. Sit on the floor while doing things
Most of us spend most of our time sitting on a chair, couch, in the car, or on other raised surfaces. But how often do you sit on the floor? Probably not too often.
Try changing things up a bit. Sit on the floor while folding your laundry or watching Netflix or petting your dog.
Shift your position periodically, seeing how it feels to sit cross-legged vs. in seiza vs. in a wide leg stance vs. in a longsitting position. Try reaching forward or to the side to get a good stretch as you do whatever you’re doing.
2. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand
Doing almost anything with your non-dominant hand feels super weird (unless you’re among the lucky few to be ambidextrous), but it’s a good way to get your brain ticking.
Give it a try while brushing your teeth, maybe on a morning when you’re not running late for work, since it’ll take you a bit longer than usual. Be prepared for it feel really awkward, and to probably get toothpaste all over the place.
3. Stand on one leg while putting on your socks
Instead of sitting on your bed or a chair to put on your socks, take this daily opportunity to get in some balance training. Stand on one leg as you put a sock on the opposite foot, then switch sides.
You’ll probably find that one side is harder than the other—that’s normal!
If you want some more help with improving your balance, we’ve got a whole article with lots of ideas and exercises you can work on.
4. Crumple newspaper
Still read the paper? Well, when you’re done, take a sheet or two of newspaper and crumple it in your fist. Sounds silly, I know, but it’s a pretty amazing wrist and hand workout. You can squeeze hard, then release tension, or try to crumple as much at once as you can.
While you’re at it, you can try the same thing with your toes to get some extra foot mobility work.
5. Deep squat when petting your dog
Really, when you’re doing anything—be it petting your dog, picking up his poop, playing with your kids, or anything at ground level—getting into a deep squat whenever you can is just good practice.
That doesn’t mean you should be spending hours a day in a static squat (we’ve written about our thoughts on this), but using the squat as a transitional movement to do things in your daily life can be a big shift from how you usually do things.
6. Do chores in a different way
You clean your house, put away your groceries, and cook dinner all the time anyway, so why not shake things up a bit?
Use these daily activities as an excuse to move in different ways. Try squatting down and turning as you do your daily chores. Maybe kneel and twist as you put away your laundry. See how long you can stand on one leg while you wash the dishes.
Focus on each motion and on making it smooth. Practice mindfully instead of just going through the motions mindlessly.
7. Do shoulder circles with a broom handle
Everybody’s got a broom in their house, right? Take a little pause while you’re sweeping the floor, or just go grab it from the closet, and hold on to the handle with both hands, reaching overhead. Carefully bring your arms back in a circular motion (you may not get very far, but that’s okay! It’s still a good stretch).
Play around with having your hands closer together or farther apart. See what feels better or gives you a better stretch where you need it.
8. Mop the floor while squatting or stretching
Instead of mopping with a standard mop, try it the way your grandma used to do it—with a rag and a bucket of soapy water. Then get down on the ground and mop the floor as you squat down or stretch. You’ll be amazed at what a good workout this can be (and at how clean your floor gets!)
9. Stretch while getting dressed
There are so many ways you can do this. Bend down to touch your toes before stepping your feet into your pant legs. Or stretch your arms overhead as much as possible while you pull your t-shirt over your head.
Basically, exaggerate your movements as you get dressed. These little stretches will feel really good, and are a great way to start the day.
10. Find different ways to stand up
Sit down on the floor (play around with different seated positions), then try to find as many ways as you can to stand up off the ground. Try to stand up without using your hands for an even bigger challenge. Check out this video of Jarlo demonstrating a bunch of different ways to stand up off the ground. Play around with what works for you.
11. Pick things up with your toes
Work on your strength and control in your toes and feet by putting them to use! If you see something on the ground, try to grasp it with your toes and lift your foot off the ground, bringing it up to your hand, rather than bending down to pick it up.
As you get more comfortable with this, you can make it more challenging by picking up different types of objects, or lifting your leg further.
8 Ways to Get More Movement Practice at Work
You probably spend a lot of time in the office—maybe even more than at home! So, getting some movement throughout your day shouldn’t just be relegated to your house. The good news is there are tons of things you can do while at work.
1. Rotate in your chair
While seated in your chair, keep your hips facing forward, and rotate your shoulders and torso to the right and to the left, going as far as you can.
Pick a fixed object behind you and try rotating further and further in that direction each time. This is a great stretch that can be done any time.
2. Spread your toes at your desk
Most of us get very little movement in our toes, ever. But it’s so easy to just spread your toes whenever you get the chance! And while you’re at your desk, writing an email or during a conference call, that’s a perfect time to give those toes a good stretch.
3. Move your spine around while seated
Continuing from the previous tip, there are all sorts of ways you can get movement in your spine while sitting in a chair.
Try flexing and extending different segments of your spine. Make circles with your upper back, mid back, and low back. Do side bends. Move your pelvis in a circle, or tuck and untuck your tailbone. The possibilities are endless!
4. Hold your phone or pen with your non-dominant hand
Just like the example up above of brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, there are so many opportunities to practice this at work. Maybe if you’re signing important documents, you won’t want to mess up by writing with your non-dominant hand, but you probably write notes or lists throughout your day, and that’s a great time to try switching to your other hand from time to time.
5. Practice lazy grabs
You can do this with any object on your desk. Try to pick it up in the laziest way you can—meaning, with the least amount of effort. Pick it up and move it without making any noise. You can think about a cat lazily batting an object across the table.
6. Stretch your fingers
Typing on a keyboard all day can wreak havoc on your wrists! Set a timer to stretch out your fingers and shake them out at least once an hour or so. While you’re at it, add in some rotations of your wrists too.
For more ideas and stretches for your wrists, see our full tutorial. Many of those stretches can be practiced right at your desk, or you can do them when you get home if your wrists are feeling achey.
7. Do some desk stretches
There are all sorts of stretches and exercises you can do at your desk. We put together a routine of some of our favorites, which you can check out here.
You definitely don’t need to do all the exercises—just pick one or two that you enjoy and can do consistently. The important thing is taking advantage when you have a chance to get a good stretch or two in during breaks.
8. Train your head/eye coordination
Pick different points around your office to focus your eyes on. Rotate your head around to those different points, letting your eyes lead your head where you want it to go. This improves your head/eye coordination, and can be good for your neck mobility too.
12 Ways to Get More Movement Practice on the Go
While you’re out and about, you can find countless ways to bring more movement into your life, if you’re paying attention.
1. Climb stairs, but make it interesting
Everyone says to “take the stairs,” and that’s not bad advice, but it’s become almost cliché. You can make things a lot more interesting by changing up how you take the stairs.
You can try walking sideways or backwards (just be careful). Go up two stairs at a time. Play around with staying flat footed vs. walking on the balls of your feet vs. walking on the heels of your feet. As long as you’re being mindful and paying attention to safety, there’s so much you can do to make the stairs a lot more fun.
2. Get a good stretch when walking through doorways
You walk through doorways probably more times than you could count. Next time you’re walking through a doorway, place your hands or forearms on either side of the frame and lean forward to get a nice stretch in your shoulders and upper back.
Do this a few times a day and your tight, achey back might not feel as tight and achey anymore.
3. Hang from a tree branch
If you happen upon a strong, sturdy tree, with a branch within reach, hop up and grab a hold of it.
Let your body relax and you’ll feel a really nice stretch in your shoulders. Plus, this can be a great challenge for your grip.
As your grip gets stronger, play around with lifting your legs up or switching your grip.
4. Step up and over objects
Instead of walking around things like fire hydrants or big rocks, try stepping up and over them. For some objects, that may mean getting a real challenge for your hip flexors, for others it may be more of a challenge for your foot and ankle mobility, and often it may just be a good balance challenge. Any way you slice it, it’s a win.
Look for those opportunities to put your mobility and control to the test.
5. Hug yourself while waiting for the bus
This one may sound weird, but bear with me. If you happen to be waiting around at the bus stop and there aren’t too many people around, give yourself an exaggerated hug—you know, the kind where you reach your arms around your body as much as you possibly can. Try to see if you can get your fingers to touch behind your back!
6. Jump between things
I’m sure you did this as a kid. When you saw a bunch of rocks near each other, you just couldn’t help but jump from one to the next. Well, there’s no reason adults can’t do that too. You can try this with any objects you find along your path.
No need to make the jumps big, just try to focus on moving smoothly from one object to the next.
7. Practice balance-walking throughout your day
You don’t even need a raised surface for this one. Anytime you see painted lines in the road, or cracks in the sidewalk, pretend it’s a tight rope and work on balance walking your way across it. You’ll be amazed at how challenging this can be.
And when you do see a raised surface like a curb, that’s an even better chance to practice your balance.
8. Focus on your breathing
If you’re out walking around, take a few minutes to pay attention to your breathing as you walk. Where are you breathing into in your body? Is your breathing shallow, or are you taking deep breaths? Just notice what’s going on.
Then, you can start manipulating your breathing as you go. Maybe focus on inhaling for 4 seconds, holding it for 4 seconds, then exhaling for 4 seconds, then holding it for 4 seconds, and so on, until you reach a certain landmark. Play around with it!
9. Walk on uneven surfaces
When you’re out and about, seek out uneven surfaces to walk on. Big tree branches, rocks, an uneven sidewalk—these are all good ways to challenge your balance and give you some different inputs to respond to.
Go slowly and carefully, and pay attention to how your body responds to walking on different types of surfaces.
10. Look for different ways to get from point A to point B
If you usually drive or walk a certain route, try to think of some other ways to get from point A to point B. Maybe you could ride your bike there, or skip there.
One of our staffers, Stacey, sometimes kayaks places if she can—that may not be an option for you, but it’s just another way of thinking about this.
11. Walk barefoot
You’ll want to ease your way into this if you’re used to walking in shoes all the time (like most of us). Look around to make sure there isn’t broken glass or anything like that before you take off your shoes, then spend a few minutes introducing your feet to totally different textures than usual. Notice how your feet feel and if there’s any impact on the way the rest of your body feels.
12. Help your neighbors
Besides for just being a good thing to do, often, you can find really fun and interesting ways to move your body when a neighbor or friend calls on you for help. Maybe your neighbor has a fence that needs mending, or your friend needs help moving. Perhaps there’s a beach cleanup effort near you that you can get involved in. All of these are great ways to give back to the community, while using your body in ways you probably don’t get to most of the time.
4 Ways to Get More Movement Practice at the Gym
If you’re training, you’re already moving, right? Not necessarily. And even if you are, there’s always room for experimentation or changing your routine to give your body and mind a different stimulus.
1. Warm up with locomotion
Most people either skip their warm-up altogether, or do some random, boring stretches. Why not make things more interesting and get your body warmed up with some locomotion?
Do bear walks or moving squats (what we call monkey and frogger in our Elements program). Try lizard crawls or low cartwheels. Check out this article for more about locomotion and why we are such big fans. And for another approach to your warm-up, check out this article.
2. Test your balance
There are a lot of ways you can add a balance component into your training. Obviously, this will work better with some exercises than with others, but look for opportunities to add in some balance work.
If you like working with kettlebells, for instance, you can try standing on one leg as you do overhead presses (with a lighter weight than you normally would). Or, if you’re working on bodyweight squats, try closing your eyes and go really slow as you lower yourself.
3. Change your environment
We’re all creatures of habit, especially in our training routines. Sometimes, even small differences can change the way we look at the same exercises. Here’s a few ideas to make small changes that can make you more aware of your movements:
- Face a different direction in the room—Were you focus your vision impacts technique, so looking at something closer or further away may subtly change your balance.
- Different surfaces have different levels of friction and padding. that can make some exercises more challenging or just force you to focus on your feet.
- If you normally practice indoors, try going outside. It can change things dramatically!
4. Practice with a metronome
Even if you’re paying close attention to your technique, your breathing, and everything else you should be when training, you may not be as aware of your pacing. Using a metronome can add a rhythm component to your training that can make you think about things in a totally different way. Don’t be surprised if it trips you up a bit at first!
11 Ways to Get More Movement Practice Anywhere, Anytime
You can probably sense a theme with all the tips above—you’re surrounded by opportunities for movement all the time. You just have to look out for them. So, here are some more tips for changing things up wherever you are, no matter what you’re doing.
1. Lift one leg
Here’s an easy balance exercise you can do anywhere, anytime. Just lift one leg! You can try this while standing in line at the grocery store, while watching your kids play on the playground, or any other time you see a good opportunity to practice. And if you feel like your balance is really poor right now, you can always do this while standing next to something that you can grab onto if need be.
2. Close your eyes
Anything you’re used to doing with your eyes open (I’m guessing that’s 100% of the things you do, other than sleep) will be exponentially harder with your eyes closed. Obviously, don’t go crossing the street or cutting onions with your eyes closed, but there are plenty of things you can safely do with your eyes closed for a minute or two. Your vestibular system is going to feel all sorts of wonky at first!
3. Make faces
We almost never think about the muscles in our faces, but they play a big role in how the head and neck (and everything that follows) function. Making exaggerated faces by tightening and releasing the muscles is a good way to exercise your face muscles and improve how you control tension overall. And an added bonus is you can make random kids on the bus laugh at you (…or babies might start crying left and right. On second thought, maybe practice this one at home) 😉
4. Go backwards
This is another one that can make your normal actions feel totally different than usual. Try walking backwards or doing motions in reverse whenever you can, and you’ll see just how much more effort it takes to get your brain and your body acting in unison.
5. Visualize yourself doing something
This is a technique that’s been used in sports and training quite a bit, but can be applied to just about anything. Before doing something, visualize yourself going through all the steps you’ll take to do that thing. What are your body mechanics like? Your breathing? How will you stand?
Going through this exercise can bring mindful attention to the task at hand, and help you do it more efficiently.
6. Slow it down as much as possible
We tend to move through life at a fast pace, rarely slowing down to pay attention to what we’re doing. But anything you do throughout your day can be slowed down. And when you do that, try to pay attention to the little details that usually slip right past you—you may make some interesting discoveries!
7. Change your stance
Making your stance wider, narrower, or more staggered can have a big impact on how your body responds to whatever you’re doing. One of my favorite “games” is to widen my stance when riding the subway, trying to balance myself and keep myself steady without holding on. You can try other things like that throughout your day.
8. Do slow calf raises
Whenever you can, try to do some slow calf raises to strengthen those calves and ankles. You can do this while standing still, or you can stop every few steps when going up a flight of stairs to get a good stretch in the lowered position, and a good strength challenge as you raise up. Or find a wall to use as support while you do calf raises in a straight or bent position.
9. Shake it out
Whenever you start feeling stiff from sitting too long, or at any other point during the day, just stand up and shake out your body a bit. It’s a quick and easy way to relieve some tension, even if you don’t have time for stretching or other movements right then.
10. Walk on different parts of your feet
Try walking on the balls of your feet or on your heels, and see how you have to adjust the rest of your body mechanics to maintain your balance. You can also try shifting your weight to the insides or outsides of your feet—just do this gently and carefully so you don’t accidentally twist your ankle.
Play around with how the different positions of your feet feel.
11. Do scales
This is one of our favorite balance exercises that can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Stand with your feet together, with a straight posture. Then, point the toe of one leg and keep your leg locked out (knee straight), as you lift it up as high as you can while maintaining good stability in the rest of your body. See our tutorial for more help with this one, along with other ideas and variations you can practice.
11 Movements to Try
Even with all the ideas above, the very thought of working movement into your day is totally foreign for most people. So here are some more ideas of movements you can try.
1. Wall angels
Squat with your back against the wall. Try and maintain contact through the length of your spine. Place your arms in a field goal position. Raise them upward as high as you can while the back of your hands, wrists, forearms, shoulder blades, and back continue to maintain contact with the wall.
Notice if you can raise one arm higher than the other, or how heavy, light, or evenly the contact feels throughout the movement. This one can really wake up some parts of your shoulders you might not have worked on much before!
2. Spinal articulation
Getting every part of your spine moving in every possible direction is so important for keeping it moving and feeling good. You can practice from a tabletop position on the ground, seated in a chair, standing, supported against a wall—really, anywhere and in any way.
It may take a bit of practice to be able to control the different parts of your spine, and be prepared for some awkwardness.
3. Twisting squats
Get down into a squat (hold on to something if you need to) and twist to one side, then to the other. This is a great way to work on your squat mobility while getting some extra movement in your spine.
You don’t need any space at all, so just give this one a whirl when you have a spare minute or two.
4. Point with your toes
You can do this sitting on the floor or on the couch with your legs stretched out. Lift one leg and point your toes toward an object that’s at a somewhat challenging angle. See if you can go higher or further out in any direction, pointing at objects at more challenging angles.
5. Roll on the floor
If you have a bit of space, you can work on forward rolls and back rolls (see our tumbling tutorial for some help with these). But even if you don’t have much space, you can work on rolling on the ground. Just lay down flat on your back, and trying to keep your body straight, roll over onto your belly in both directions.
For more of a challenge, you can practice hollow body holds to Superman holds. This video describes how to do a hollow body hold (the most advanced version has you pressing your low back into the ground, with your head, shoulders, and legs off the ground), then you’ll keep your head, shoulders, and legs off of the ground as you flip over to do a Superman hold.
6. Move in and out of a squat
It’s become popular in the fitness world for people to recommend sitting in a static squat for as much time in a day as possible. We’re not big believers in that because a squat is inherently a transitional movement in your daily life (think: squatting down to reach a pair of dirty socks under your bed).
We do love squats, though! We just prefer them in motion, so that it has better carry over into your daily life. So, get down into a squat and move around however you can! Rotate your hips in and out; place your hands on the ground and shift your body forward and back; do some monkeys (lateral moving squat) or froggers (forward/backward moving squat). Have fun with it!
7. Try hopping
Yes, hopping! On one foot, or on both—either way it’s going to be a lot of fun. Here are some ways to play around with this:
- In place
- Do it with minimal power
- Try with more power
- Turn 45-degrees, 90-degrees, and 180-degrees
- Land as softly as you can
- If you’re on both feet, try landing in a squat
8. Whip out your old jump rope
The jump rope is a great tool that can be used in lots of different ways. You can practice jumping in different ways (two legs at once, or one leg at a time), and at different speeds. And you can even use a jump rope as a stretching tool. Hold on to the rope with both hands and reach your shoulders up and back overhead, or use it as a strap around your feet if you’re having trouble getting into a forward fold. There are lots of possibilities!
9. Juggle things
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been good at juggling—practicing it can still be beneficial for your hand-eye coordination (plus, there’s a good chance you’ll actually improve your juggling skills, so you’ll get yourself a good party trick in the process).
Juggle whatever you have handy—no need for special balls or hackey sacks. Just maybe don’t start juggling knives 😉
10. Cross body movements
Doing movements that create more communication between the right and left sides of your body is great for improving gait, coordination, balance, and a whole lot more.
Our favorite cross body movement is the Bear walk, which involves moving your opposite arm and leg concurrently, but you can even do something as simple as standing up and touching your elbow to your opposite knee.
11. Do foot and ankle mobility exercises
Most people rarely think about their feet and ankles (until something goes wrong) but you can do some simple mobility work for the feet and ankles just about anywhere, anytime. Even if you’re wearing shoes, you can think about scrunching up your toes as much as possible, then releasing. Or coming up onto the balls of your feet. Or doing some slow and controlled ankle circles wherever you happen to be.
How to Take Action on All These Ideas
No list of this many things to do should come without advice on how to actually use it. Here’s some things we’ve found that have helped us change our habits.
Use a tracking app
There are tons of habit tracking apps out there now, and there’s a lot to be said for the convenience factor of being able to check things off and get reminders wherever you are. Here are a few apps different members of our team have found useful (we don’t get a commission or anything for recommending these—we just like making recommendations when we know something is good):
Or use a good ‘ole fashioned paper tracker
Even with all the apps in the world, lots of us still prefer good ‘ole fashioned pen and paper. You can use your favorite notebook or, if you want something more official, we made a handy monthly tracker you can use to keep track of your habits. You can download it by entering your email below (and we’ve also included some of our favorite movement tips).
Find an accountability partner
Anytime you bring another person into the picture to hold you accountable, your chances of success with building a habit go up exponentially. And it’s not just because the other person will keep you honest, but because it can make things way more fun!
Think about the people you know and who might be interested in practicing different ways of moving their bodies throughout the day, and see if you can be each other’s partner in making this happen.
Do the minimum
We always try to do too much. We take on too many habits at once, or try to make huge changes in our routines, and then we wonder why we have a hard time staying consistent. When you think about it, though, one minute is better than zero, and one new solid habit is better than 10 that you can’t maintain.
BJ Fogg talks about taking on micro-habits—”floss one tooth” is one example of taking on habits that are “so small they seem trivial.”
I know we just gave you a huge list of ideas, but don’t try to take them all on. Just pick a few and do them well. When they stop being fun, pick some other ones.
Anchor habits to other activities
One good way to remember to do these actions is by anchoring them to other things you already do. You brush your teeth every day, right? So use that as a trigger for some of these other actions. Or, every time you watch TV, you could use that as a trigger to do some stretches when a commercial comes on.
Linking these habits to things you already do is a good way to remind yourself to practice.
Make it fun!
We’ve said this a few times already, but seriously, make this fun. If it’s not fun, you’re not likely to actually do it, and then what’s the point? Don’t think of these as exercises that you “have” to do—pick the actions that sound the most fun to you, and you’ll have a much better chance of making regular movement a part of your life.
Get Your Cheatsheet with Even More Resources
Damn, that’s a lot of tips! To make things a bit more digestible for you, we’ve put together a cheatsheet that has our favorite tips for getting more daily practice. Plus, we’ve included a handy tracker to help you keep yourself accountable and make these a habit! Download it right here: