Part 1: Don’t exercise!

no-exercise exercising image
Image by Stone Hood – Unsplash

Do any of these sentiments match what you experience with exercise or even the thought of exercise?

Getting ready to exercise = slow; sluggish; upturned fossil; heaving an oversized, enamelled shell out of the front door.

Mid-way = sporadic, smouldering, chemical spikes; heightened senses; mile-wide smile; glimmering eyes; spiking speed.

Homeward bound = full-throttle; prancing pony; pleasure-pain; babbling hysteria.

After exercise = Muscle weary; success; languor; slap happiness.

Me: I love exercise about as much as Winnie the Pooh loves ‘hunny’. When I’m exercise-deprived, a PTSD-struck wolverine emerges. Exercise keeps my engine from backfiring.

I have a few friends and family members who share my sentiments, others slither away as quickly as a threatened black mamba at the mere mention of the ‘E’ word.

This article is aimed at those ‘E-word slitherers’.

Black mamba image
Image by Glen Carrie – Unsplash

Don’t exercise but DO play

Discard any thought about exercise. Simply get off the couch, bed, chair, or wherever you regularly place your rear-end. Now, try some of these fun ‘no-exercise’ activities.

Take the stairs

Image by Ruffa Jane Reyes – Unsplash

No matter where you go or how many floors it takes to reach your destination, TAKE THE STAIRS. Even if you walk at a sloth’s pace you will burn more than three times the calories of walking on a flat surface. Plan ahead, leave home earlier to appointments in tall buildings. Ditch the “no time to take the stairs” excuse.

As you get (dare I say) fitter, why not try a few intense 20- to 30-second bursts up those stairs. Your heart and lungs will celebrate with you. Active stair climbers have a higher aerobic capacity than their lift-hibernating counterparts.

Ponder this – you work on the fourth floor of a building and your job requires that you attend meetings on different floors throughout the day. If you ignore the lift and take the stairs, the accumulated stairs climbed may quickly add up to the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Without any mention of ‘exercise’ or the schlep of packing a gym bag.

You may even live longer (not die sooner) if you climb more than 55 flights of stairs weekly.

Not only does stair climbing burn calories, but some studies also reveal that even two flights of stairs climbed daily can lead to 2.7 kg of weight loss over a year. Stair climbing also improves bone density, especially in peri-menopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women. It also balances blood pressure and can reduce arterial stiffness in the legs. Since it increases leg power it helps to maintain healthy muscles and joints too. This in turn reduces the risk of injury from falls in the elderly.

If that’s not enough, stair climbing can also improve the level of good cholesterol in the blood.

Throw a frisbee

Image by Wolfgang Hasselmann – Unsplash

Throwing a frisbee is a fun and social way to move around with friends, your kids, and even the dog. If you’re willing to push yourself a little harder during this fun activity, ask your less furry playmates to make you run for the frisbee. Who knew: tossing a disc = workout.

Swing a hula-hoop

The hula hoop is another simplistic, fun-boosting piece of equipment that has the potential to increase fitness and reduce your waistline and hips. Hula-hooping is an effective activity for core endurance training, especially if you use a weighted hoop. Remember when shopping for one, your height determines the size of the hoop. Check out this video for cool tips before you go hula-hoop shopping.

The findings from a study carried out on 13 women who participated in a weighted hula-hooping programme over six weeks revealed that on average, the women lost 3.4 cm around their waists and 1.4 cm around their hips.

Since hula-hooping inevitably triggers laughter, you have the added benefit of burning more calories.


Wallabies dancing
Image by David Clode – Unsplash

This one is super easy – just turn up the radio and move your body. You can also create a range of 10-song playlists to dance to, which will give you the recommended daily 30-minutes of activity.

If you want something more social, there are a variety of dance classes on offer at gyms or private studios, be it Zumba, salsa, ballroom, square, swing or tap dancing. Some even include martial arts into the mix or combine dance and hula-hooping.

Dancing is known to improve the condition of your heart and lungs, increase aerobic fitness, improve muscle tone, strength, coordination, flexibility, agility, and aid in weight management.


Lady walk dancing past sunflowers
Image by Blake Cheek – Unsplash

One of the best ways to clear your head and care for yourself is to take a walk. Not only does it improve overall wellbeing, plus all the other benefits such as strengthening bones, toning muscles, improving balance – it also reduces stress.

Explore different routes to avoid boredom. Mix it up – road, forest, farm track, park, beach. Consider taking your shoes off and walking barefoot on lush grass or the beach. You’ll have the added advantage of grounding.

It’s a great opportunity for ‘me-time’ but equally so if turned into a friend or family outing. The best way to enjoy the walk, of course, is with a furry friend at your side. Watch and learn from them – that will take your mind off your stress and the fact that you’re actually ‘exercising’.

Why not initiate walking meetings at your workplace? Instead of sitting in a cramped, air-conditioned meeting room (especially during the current Covid times), suggest an outside ‘moving’ meeting. You’ll be amazed at how it can change your way of thinking and encourage more creative idea generation, better connection with your colleagues, and overall better wellbeing. Plus, an opportunity to increase your vitamin D intake.

Take-away for now

Just like many people abhor exercise, many switch off if they open an article and the act of reading becomes too strenuous. So, the short and sweet take-home message is, “don’t exercise, rather move, play, live, have fun”. Try the five tips mentioned above for a week or two and pop a message in the comments to let me know if any of these activities inspired you to get active.

Watch this space for Part 2 of this article, where I’ll share a few more ‘no-exercise’ suggestions.

Authored by Delilah Nosworthy

If you would like to read more of my articles click here.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. No material contained herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care or exercise regime, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


6 Responses

  1. Yups, Delilah. Agree. I don’t like gyms. They are generally messy and extremely noisy, which impedes exercise. When I was working (more than a decade ago in an ‘office’) taking the stairs and generally moving around gave me my 10 000 steps a day. Whoever set that number, and why? The other ideas are great. What about sightseeing on a bicycle? When I visit my family in Europe we can easily do 100 km a day. And I am not a cyclist, but the fun makes it easy.

    1. There are so many alternatives to exercising in a gym, although I have nothing against gyms. There’s one I particularly think is exceptional, the Sports Science Institute of SA. It’s clean, the staff are super friendly and helpful, exercises are science-based, it has no TVs in the gym area, it’s not noisy at all, and overall a special place. But since my article is to encourage those who don’t like the usual connotation to exercise, I delve into the alternatives. Wait for Part 2 – there I will add some additional options that involve nature. Yes, cycling and exploring beautiful places being one of them. Thanks for sharing your tips too 👍🏻 By the way, regarding your query about 10,000 steps – check out this article for more information on that: Perhaps a good time for the various institutions promoting 10,000 steps to reconsider their stance…

  2. Good advice, Delilah. I think exercise has become rather commercialised. Just doing one’s own housework, boring though it may be, provides a fairly good workout too.

    1. There are so many alternatives and just because an activity isn’t called ‘exercise’, doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile workout. Look out for Part 2 where I elaborate on gardening, housework, etc. Even those seemingly mundane activities can prove to be a beneficial workout.

  3. I need to share this article with some of my friends and family. I know too many black mambas, the ‘E’ word is like armageddon to them. Thanks for the insight, D.

    1. Please do share it Nonku. It’ll be great to inspire those who are averse to the “E” word and encourage them to try moving their bodies in ways that they enjoy. Ways that do not feel like punishment to them. There are so many great alternatives to the stereotypical options of exercising.

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