Stealth health: 8 easy ways to get more exercise

If you are concerned about keeping yourself and your family fit, but you don't want to be a drill sergeant about exercise, try these stealthy approaches to adding fitness to your lifestyle. They're easy and fun!

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  • Everyone needs to be active. With America’s obesity rates rising right along with the rest of the world, keeping healthy should be a top priority for every family. You don’t need to break out the whistle and stopwatch, however. Here are some sneaky ways for you and your family to burn some extra calories and increase your fitness level. These stealth health methods can become part of your lifestyle, no gym membership required.

  • Park play

  • When you take your kids or dog to the park, don’t sit on the bench. Run, jump, slide and play right along with your family. Bring a Frisbee or football and take advantage of the grassy areas most parks have. Try to do a few pull-ups or swing across the monkey bars. My kids like to set up an obstacle-course type race (up the ladder, down the slide, around to the swings, etc.) and try for the fastest time. Bring a jump rope and try to do 100 jumps. You’ll burn calories and reduce stress — and your kids will think you are very cool.

  • Run the stairs

  • Everyone has heard the advice, “Take the stairs,” as a way to get a little more exercise. You can do this at home as well. I try to run up the stairs instead of walking. Sometimes I look for more reasons to go up the stairs. If I run them 20 times in a day, it adds up to a mini workout. Find more stairs in your life, and try to run them!

  • Drop and give me 20

  • My brother-in-law gave me this tip. He was trying to increase his upper body strength, but had a busy work schedule. He found that he could do sets of 20 pushups throughout the day in his work clothes. He worked up to 500 pushups a day. I can do a few sets of 10 throughout my day. Regular stretching and moving around is recommended for those with desk jobs. Why not make it a bit more challenging and add in pushups.

  • Walk the dog

  • Don’t pass off an opportunity to walk the dog. A brisk 20-minute walk is a great way to get some exercise in twice a day. If you’re feeling energetic, let you and your dog get more exercise by running for a few minutes of your walk. Take the kids with you too. If you’re like me and don’t have a dog, consider taking an evening walk with your family. We do this often in the summer. It’s a perfect way to spend time together and avoid the after-dinner TV rut.

  • Dance party

  • My family loves to dance. We turn on music and dance every day — sometimes twice a day. It’s part of our routine to dance after dinner while we are doing the dishes and cleaning up. The kids really do get moving, and when the parents join in it’s even more fun. Dust off your favorite dancing tunes and try it.

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  • Get off the couch

  • Do simple exercises like sit-ups or push-ups while watching TV. I like to stretch in the evenings, so I do it while being entertained by a show. If your kids want you to play video games, choose one that is fitness, sport or dance-based. Some even have fitness modes to increase the activity level. TV watching is a sedendary activity. Keep your metabolism up by doing simple exercises while watching.

  • Go by foot or pedal

  • If you live in a pedestrian or bike-friendly community (like I am lucky to), run errands by walking or biking. If you live in a more suburban area, park your car once at a shopping area and then walk to all of the different stores you need to visit. Encourage your kids to walk with you, help carry groceries or push the cart.

  • Plan fitness outings

  • Swap out a visit to a movie theater for a hike, bike ride, bowling or swimming. Try an indoor-climbing wall or rent a canoe at a local river or lake. Try new activities to keep things interesting or plan monthly outings of your favorites. Community centers often plan activities like this for families at low or little cost. Universities or city parks departments often have rental programs for equipment you may not own.

  • Adding more fitness to your family’s lifestyle does not have to be hard. In fact, you can be so sneaky about it that your family won’t realize they are moving more. As the CDC notes, regular exercise helps you reduce stress, lower disease risk, decrease obesity and gain confidence. Do all this and more by practicing stealth health as you get fit!

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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