25 Ways to Exercise Without Realizing It

I sat in the parking lot, absolutely terrified.

My palms were sweaty, my heart was racing, my brain was going crazy.  After ten minutes, I finally mustered up my 20 seconds of courage, yelled at myself, got out of the car, and walked through the double doors.

I was getting ready to try something I had always wanted to do but had been too scared.

I attended my first swing dance class.

An hour later, I left a sweaty mess…a sweaty mess with a giant smile on my face.

With today marking the beginning of another 6-week challenge on Nerd Fitness, I want to discuss exercise that isn’t exercise, and another big excuse that we all hear too often.

Cutting out all excuses


“But I don’t like to exercise.”

While some are like Odie and love to run around all day, others are like Garfield and feel like they must be allergic to exercise.  I’ve heard this excuse more than I care to count, and I’m going to put a stop to it right now.  That’s right. Today we’re going to eliminate the second most common excuse people have when it comes to exercise.

The first? “I don’t have time” which I already DESTROYED in a previous post.  You can’t use that one either.

So, there.

Let’s take a look at how to stop using it, and a bunch of different ways to stay healthy without actually realizing you’re exercising.

The Truth About Exercise

treadmill fall

As stated in the Rules of the Rebellion, you can’t outrun your fork.  Unless you’re Michael Phelps swimming for 8 hours a day at a Olympic level, there is no amount of exercise that can cancel out a diet full of processed foods, junk food, and liquid calories.

For whatever reason, human beings are amazing at justifying and rationalizing the most ridiculous things.  We use these rationalizations to justify horrible behavior, and then compound that decision by saying things like “well, I already made one bad decision, so today is ruined.  I’ll start tomorrow.”

In order for you to live a healthy life, you need to get your head straight and understand a few key facts:

  • Exercising for an hour, burning 300-400 calories, and then saying “I earned this” to justify stuffing 1000 calories worth of junk food down your throat is a losing battle.  We’re gonna stop doing this.
  • Exercise does not mean “run on a treadmill for four hours and be miserable.”  Exercise is anything that elevates your heart rate and takes your body outside of its normal comfort zone.
  • Your diet is responsible for 80-90% of your success or failure when it comes to losing weight and getting healthier.  If I could only tell you to fix one thing, your diet or exercising, it would be your diet. Every time.
  • Every decision counts and every choice adds up.  One bad decision does not ruin a day.  One day off doesn’t ruin a week.  One week off doesn’t ruin a month.  EVERY SINGLE DECISION you make can take you closer or further away from your ultimate goal. Stop worrying about the decision you made 10 minutes ago or yesterday and focus on the next one.

Combine these four facts, and we’re left with this:

Exercise is a bonus.  Exercise helps your heart get stronger, can help build muscle, usually gets you outside the house and absorbing vitamin D, and brings you a litany of other health benefits.

Exercise is not an excuse to eat like crap. Instead, you need to reframe your mindset.  Instead of “I earned this” start telling yourself: “If I’m going to exercise, I might as well make it worth it by eating right too.”

Daily exercise is a constant reminder that you are leveling up your life – that you must continue to make other good choices or you’re practically wasting your time.

Exercising Without Exercising

dog frisbee

When you say “but I don’t like exercising,” what you’re really saying is: “I don’t enjoy the particular type of exercise that I have in mind.”

If you don’t like lifting weights in a gym, don’t do it. If you don’t like running, don’t do it. I have never run more than a 5k in my life and have zero plans to ever run more than that.  Unless there are zombies that can run a 10 k…in which case I’ll run an 11k.

My main goal with Nerd Fitness is to get you to enjoy exercise, find a way to do it every day, and combine that with making better decisions about the food you put in your body.

So, we need to find a way to exercise every day because it KEEPS US THINKING HEALTHY, which leads to other healthier decisions made throughout the day (where the real big wins are).

Here are my favorite ways to exercise that don’t feel like exercise:

Hiking, especially with friends –  This last week I went and hiked around Lake Radnor in Nashville with fellow entrepreneur Matt Bodnar.  We hung out with deer, saw incredible scenery, and talked about life and business.  I also happened to walk five miles over various elevations.

Walking –  No time to hike?  Go for a walk.  Even a 15-minute brisk walk is enough time to get close to a mile walked, which gets you one step closer to Mordor.  Do you have a 30-minute meeting at work?  Have a walking meeting instead.  Steve Jobs was known for doing this.

LARPING –  Live Action Role Playing.  Might seem silly to those on the outside, but to those playing, it’s an amazing adventure that reminds us how awesome our imaginations are.  Also, depending on the game, you could be wearing a heavy costume, swinging heavy weaponry, and running for your life!

Rock Climbing – I love rock climbing.  It’s one of the best arm/back/forearm workouts in existence, you get to feel like a badass when you reach the top of the wall, and all climbing routes are graded so you can level up the challenge as you get stronger/fitter/better.  It’s a fit nerd’s dream!

Geocaching – If rock climbing is a fit-nerd’s dream, then geocaching is a adventure nerd’s dream brought to life.  Become a real life treasure-hunter (Lara Croft? Nathan Drake? You decide!), and get a great workout in while you’re at it.

Dancing –  Ever tried serious swing dancing? You’ll be sweating within ten minutes.  How about hip hop?  Drenched in sweat, and sore as hell the next day. Zumba? Tango? Flamenco?  You’d be surprised what you can sign up for and what will elevate your heart rate.

Roughhousing with your kids. I don’t have kids, but when I do, you can bet your ass I’ll be the dad out rolling around in the back yard with them.  Don’t forget what it’s like to be a kid – it keeps you young.  I really enjoyed this article from Art of Manliness on the importance of roughhousing!

Climbing on stuff – Last week on my hike at Midoricon, I was walking through the woods with NF Rebel Joe (No, not THAT Joe).  It was awesome to see this guy, having lost 100 pounds since finding Nerd Fitness, explore the woods like it was no problem: climbing on stumps, balancing on fallen trees, climbing trees, and more.  When was the last time you’ve done stuff like THAT? Hmmm? (Shout out to MovNat!)

Martial arts – Be honest. You watched The Matrix, you heard Neo go “I know Kung Fu” and you wanted to be able to one day say the same thing.  Whether it’s Kung Fu, Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Karate or Capoeira, there’s a martial art out there that will make you feel like a badass.

Build a standing desk – Although we all know that correlation does not prove causation, it’s no surprise that there’s a strong correlation between sitting all day and an early grave.  Why not fix your posture, strengthen your legs, and spend the day being more productive with a standing desk?

Stop meeting for coffee – Hat tip to Charlie Hoehn on this one.  If somebody wants to meet up with you for coffee, suggest something active: throwing a baseball, tossing a frisbee, going for a hike – anything that gets you up and moving.  I say yes to pretty much anybody that invites me to play golf. Wink wink.

You know… – That thing that couples do?  Yeah. Do more of that.  Self-explanatory.  Moving on…

Clean – Ugh, nobody likes to clean the house/apartment. I certainly don’t. So I make a game out of it.  I see how much I can accomplish with a single song blasting at max volume.  Of course, after getting through one song, I figure “welp, I’ve already started, might as well keep going.”

Do handstands – We have an article coming up teaching you how to do your first handstand, which I’m very excited about.  This is a fun activity that builds up serious arm and core strength and will leave you sweating bullets after even a few minutes.  Find a park, go do handstands, cartwheels, somersaults, and whatever else makes you feel young again.

Parkour – Our beginner’s guide to Parkour is one of the most popular on Nerd Fitness.  I don’t care how old you are, there’s no reason you can’t get started with rolling around in your hard and vaulting over picnic tables and bike racks.

Playout – Is Parkour too serious for you? Try a playout! Spiderman was on to something – climbing walls, swinging from skyscrapers, and popping flips around the bad guys. You might not be able to swing between buildings, but you can definitely visit a playground in your area and get creative!

Adult gymnastics – In the same vein as Parkour, gymnastics will help you build some of the BEST real world strength you can get with any type of exercise, and it’s all done in a playful way without a single weight being picked up.  Swing from rings, somersault, flip onto pads, and more.  There are gyms all over the country.

Yoga – Build flexibility, strength, and learn to freaking relax.  There are million kinds of yoga, so sign up for a few different kinds and see which one lines up the best with what you’re looking for.

Play video games that make you be active – Wii Tennis, Wii Fit, Just Dance on Xbox Kinect, and whatever games actually exist for the Sony Move (does anybody actually have this?).  OK, DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) counts too.  I know an hour of that is exhausting.  Playing a normal game like Grand Theft Auto V?  Make a rule that you can only play while standing up.  That’s what I do to keep myself from spending twelve hours on the couch in marathon gaming sessions!

Play on a playground – Obviously not when kids are around. Preferably with pants on. Go down the slide, swing across the monkey bars, climb the rope all, balance on the balance beam.  Create an obstacle course for yourself and see how quickly you can get through it.  You can even work out on a playground too.

Play a musical instrument – Did you know playing the violin for an hour burns about as many calories as walking around a track at a moderate pace for an hour?  It turns out, our brains can burn boatloads of calories too. So challenge your brain!

Join a Rec league – New in town? Want to be active and meet people?  Join a kickball or softball league.  You get to exercise AND it’s a great way to meet new people!

Bike to work – I know there are a lot of Rebels in our community who dropped a bunch of weight by making one change: they biked to work, or biked to their friend’s house, or started biking generlaly.  You get from Point A to Point B, you save money on gas, and you get a workout.  That would make Michael Scott proud.

Play a childhood game – What games did you play as a child? Capture the flag? Kick the can? Simple tag? Get a few friends together and give it a try – it will be the most fun you’ve had in a while!

Challenge yourself

challenge yourself

Yesterday we launched a new Six-Week Challenge on the Nerd Fitness Message Boards.  If you want to join a few thousand of the most supportive people you’ll ever meet and help yourself live a better life, we’d love to have you.

For this challenge, I’d love for you to commit to trying something new at some point in the next six weeks.  I committed to Swing Dance Lessons for the month of September.  After my four weeks are up, I’ll move onto something equally terrifying and new like Krav Maga or Capoeira for the month of October.

Here’s my advice to you:

  • Say yes before you can say no. Stop saying “I don’t have time” and realize you do.  Stop saying “I can’t afford it” and find a way to make it a priority.  Do all of this before you can talk yourself out of it.  The best way to do that?
  • Commit in advance. I pre-paid my four weeks of swing lessons.   Having already paid for it, I knew I’d be just throwing my money away if I didn’t attend.  Put down a deposit and make an investment in yourself.
  • Go with a friend.  I went to my class alone, which forced me to further develop my social skills, but if you happen to be TOO afraid to attend a class, get a friend to drag you there.  It’s amazing what we do to avoid ridicule from our buddies.
  • Expect to suck.  It was frustrating for me to not be good at swing dancing right away.  After playing sports and lifting weights, it was a tremendous shift for me to stop trying to be the fastest, strongest, most perfect, and instead relax, let loose and enjoy myself.  If you are learning a new skill, expect to suck at it.  You’ll get better.  As long as you remember to…
  • Have fun.  Remember, we could get hit by a bus tomorrow.  Every day above ground is a blessing, so enjoy it!

That one thing you always wanted to try but have been putting off?  Today’s a good a day to get started.  Just take that FIRST step.  Google classes in your city.  Find a site that focuses on beginners, and read about it.  If there’s a place to pre-pay or make a deposit, do it.

And then go.  Use your beastmode skills if you have to.

But suck it up, expect to not be good at the new activity immediately, and have some fun.

What’s the one new thing you’re going to try this month?


PS: Over 3,000 women have signed up for the Nerd Fitness Academy Women’s email list – we’ll be sending out an email in a few days asking a few important questions to make sure all students have a top notch experience. Make sure you’re signed up so we can hear from you!

PPS: Our #HardHatChallenge is still going strong!  How is your month going of filling up your calendar with X’s?  I missed one day this past weekend, but that’s okay, because I got right back on track the next day.

Today’s Rebel Hero: Joe (Anivair on the message boards) from Columbus, who drove down with his wife Tracie to hang out with me at MidoriCon two weeks ago!

NF Joe

Since finding Nerd Fitness, Joe is down 100 freaking pounds, and hopes to one day become a MovNat trainer.  I’ve known Joe through NF for years, so it was great to finally meet him in person.

Want to be the next Rebel Hero? Send a photo of you in your Nerd Fitness gear to Contact@nerdfitness.com so we can feature you on the site!


photo source: treadmill, treadmill fall, dog, jump, garfield

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  • Chris Brooks

    I’ve been wanting to get more exercise for me and for one of my kids. Last night we played 30 minutes of “keep the soccer ball going.” There was a lot of laughing and a lot of sweating. Good stuff!

  • blersian1980

    I am volunteering in Africa right now and I was so worried about being without my beloved crossfit for 6 months…I have done handstands and planks with the children brought out my speed rope, played soccer, chased kids, walked a zillion miles oh and I have to squat every time I want to #1 or 2…lets just say I am enjoying discovering new ways to workout.

  • +1 for the DDR reference 🙂

    Also, for anyone within reasonable driving distance, go to a Sky Zone. There’s nothing like a giant room full of trampolines to make you forget you’re exercising – until you realize you have to stop jumping or your heart will explode.

  • Keith Cappello

    For anyone who does yoga and has any kind of partner with them, you can also try AcroYoga. Takes yoga and fun to new heights and levels. Full of laughs and good times for any and all involved.

  • stevembk

    Excited for the handstand article.

    Also, I coach at Michael Phelps’ pool and he never swims 8 hours. He may get in for an hour or two now when he isnt out on the golf course.

  • Gisela

    I tried a ballet class a few months ago and I never expected to get such a good workout from it. Expect to suck is a really good advice. I wanted to give up after the second class but I kept practicing and I still suck haha but I’m really enjoying it.

  • Splash the Lab

    I compete in dog agility. I have to sprint as fast as my Border Collie. And he can kick your a__. Here’s what I’m talking about. It’s fun and as addicting as gambling. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIGvVdBWqNM)

  • Splash the Lab

    crap sorry I just wanted the link. sorry to grab so much real estate!

  • Jamie_Cohen

    Another pro-tip for playing video games: I swapped out my comfy chair for a Swiss ball. Now every gaming session is a core stability workout…

  • staciardison

    I like to run around on the beach 🙂 And swim! So much fun.

  • Lea

    The play an instrument one is a good point. I took up guitar this year and I noticed their was a play to enter ‘playing guitar’ in the workout section of my calorie counter! So strange but it actually does work.

  • Salixisme

    I walk the dog for exercise – we have a boxer and he needs at least a 1 hour walk every single day.

  • Stephanie

    The excuse that I hate to hear (mostly because I was guilty of it myself) is, “I can’t exercise due to injury and chronic pain.” The biggest excuse I gave to anyone who would listen was, “I have exercise induced asthma, so I can’t” Well, when I finally got sick of how I looked and felt, I just started walking. That was it! And guess what?! Now, I am running a couple 5ks every week, continually improving my speed. And guess what else? I threw away my inhalers because exercising actually cured my “exercise induced asthma”. I’m so sick of hearing excuses. If I can do it, anyone can!! 🙂

  • Jill

    My best friend and I started taking a pole dancing class. Wow did that ever kick my butt, and triceps, and back, and lats and….
    It was super fun and I can’t wait for the next 5 weeks!

  • Amber Bosch

    Steve, DO CAPOEIRA! I’m doing it and am not in the best shape. I FREAKING LOVE IT! Oh man! I really think you’ll enjoy it. 🙂

  • Lessjos

    Ha! Capoeira and Movnat in one article? That’s one for me.
    I finally went on a full day horseback riding course on Sunday and still procastinating on booking regular lessons. The article today was enough to butt kick me into calling a stable close by. Two years in the making! Sooooo looking forward to it but I kept pushing it back for whatever reason. I just called and left them a message! First step….DONE!

  • chacha1

    Glad you finally signed up for those dance lessons, Steve. 🙂

  • empressmomma

    I do this when on the computer! Most of the time when I’m sitting, it’s on my exercise ball or rocking chair. Keeps me moving!

  • Roller Derby is another great option, for both women and men (men’s leagues – while not as plentiful – are still popping up all over). It’s like martial arts on roller skates and even more fun. It’s a better workout than anything I’ve ever tried, and it never seems like one. Plus you get to hit people 😉

  • Regina

    Hey Steve, lately your posts have been really spot-on. This one in particular has made me come out of hiding to say thanks: this post was very inspirational to me. I went out and bought a two-month membership for Kenpo and I’m starting my intro class on Friday. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Adam Anderson

    Hey Steve, great article as always. Wanted to make you aware of a great nerdly sport that is somewhat a mix of larping, martial arts and interval running. It’s called Jugger, and it’s awesome. Based of the 1989 movie Blood of Heroes (starring Rutger Hauer -http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094764/), Jugger started in Germany but has spread across Europe, America and my own country of Australia. As we say down this way, it’s the most fun you can have beating up your friends!

    So, what is Jugger? Ok, picture touch football, with two teams of five. Except only one person is allowed to handle the ball (or skull, as it is in Jugger) while the other four team members wield a variety of (padded) ‘weapons’ in order to ensure their Qwik (the ball carrier) can make it to the other end of the field and score by placing the skull on a stake. It’s fast paced, strategic and a hell of a lot of fun.

    Here’s a youtube vid from Germany that will give you a bit of an idea what it looks like.
    Also, if you’re a fellow Aussie, I encourage you to check out Jugger Australias here.

    Thanks Steve, hope you don’t mind the links. Let me know what you think 😉

  • Izzy

    Totally agree with playing an instrument: 2 hours playing the church organ, and if you play the right pieces, you end up with sore thighs. No kidding! Totally love this article, Steve, how the heck do you always know what and when to write s.th. to help me with some particular issues 😀 That’s creepy.^^

  • mediavore

    Yes, pole dance is such a great workout! It is chock full of some serious body-weight exercises. I took classes for a year and really want to get back into it.

  • terry

    Steve, I’m in south florida. i play at pga national, home of the honda classic. you are welcome anytime.

  • Sulinar

    You’re right, though – you do have to run fast!

  • Sulinar

    Don’t forget gardening too, if you have a garden. There’s always something to be done, and if you swap your noisy petrol-fired lawnmower for a push one, you’ll get a great workout and your neighbours will thank you too!

  • Splash the Lab

    I have a push mower. It’s great and it cuts the lawn instead of tearing it like power mowers do. I call it my “Martha Stewart Approved Lawn Care System”.

  • Alecia Colella

    I love this article! I did swing dancing for a little while! Super fun right?
    I actually just stared taking a skateboarding class at my college. I didn’t realize it would be as much of a workout as it is, but I leave each 3 hour class super sweaty and super happy 😀

  • Scurvy Spider

    Enjoyed the article, as usual, and also that falling-on-the-treadmill graphic. Haven’t missed a red X yet on the 30-day challenge, with its calendar on the fridge for accountability with the family unit.

  • Amazing the ways we find to workout when there is not a gym available. Good for you!

  • MIa

    I have tried out many different classes at my gym and there were a few that really motivated me to keep going and keep a healthy lifestyle! I strongly agree in trying new things when it comes to working out.

  • adrenaline_jen

    Love the post. One thing you said bugged me though and that was, “Play on a playground – Obviously not when kids are around..” Why not? I think it’s great for kids to see active adults having fun instead of a bunch of zombified, butt-sitting smartphone addicts at the park. Just sayin’.
    Kettlebells are another great and lesser-known workout option. Google the Orange Kettlebell Club (international) for more info. Rock on, Nerd Fitness!

  • adrenaline_jen

    Just a warning if you haven’t jumped on trampoline in a while (or ever), take it easy and don’t go for more than an hour or body parts you didn’t know you had might start screaming at you. Note I said don’t over-do, NOT don’t go. Jumping on a trampoline is GREAT FUN!

  • Great tips. Even normal daily life activities can be exercise. Going to the batting cages is one that I enjoy.

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  • Mike Greenwich

    I agree, for me it’s when I take my girlfriend home and walk all the way back to my flat. That’s already about 200 calories and I save on the bus fare too! :=)

  • Kiel

    For all those interested Kings of Fitness has a YouTube channel focusing on corrective exercise and performance enhancement techniques to help individuals with their fitness goals. Check out http://www.YouTube.com/KingsofFitness because nutrition, exercise, and other help topics are much less scary when you know a little bit more about what you are doing! Good luck to everyone on their fitness journey, I hope Kings of Fitness can be of help!

  • Diogo

    Interesting. Check also: http://www.meucorpoideal.com

  • Kainnith

    “Larper” or “Larping” as you call it, I do Dagorhir here in Vegas we call sports combat or Medieval Sports combat, Larping without the role-play. Wearing full armor, fighting at full speed, and running charges into enemy lines, will build up quite a sweat. Threes hour of combat that fly by, I only wish I could measure the calories I burn out there.

  • Kharisma Putra Kartono

    thank you for another great inspiration. i just realized how much fun and enjoyable it would be to go exercising with this mindset, to have fun so the activities do not feel as a burden. I need to find what exercise I enjoy the most and be consistent doing it.

  • Jen

    Had to look this up and check it was the same movie i was thinking about.. Believe I saw it titled as Salute of the Jugger.. just AWESOME! I’ll be looking Jugger Australia up for sure

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  • Kirsten Leah

    A to the MEN. I hate that the nutrition stuff is true, but I love you for stating it. I’ve always much preferred exercise over eating right, but I finally realized I wanted my abs to actually show. Glad I found you.


  • Eilyd

    Yeah! I’m so glad you tried swing dancing! It is one of my favorite things to do (along with the rest of ballroom dancing). Besides being good exercise, it is an excellent method for developing social confidence and how to interact with the opposite gender.

  • Samantha

    Steve, it’s a shame you missed summer swing dancing in the park!


    It’s at the Parthenon, and they do a lesson before open dancing. It’s fun! And SO HOT, but (sometimes) fun enough to combat that.

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  • imposterdamus

    LARPing is a thing?

  • Elizeth Topete


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  • SFSpotless

    Why would you only swing dance for a month?!?! Did you happen to notice the guys:girls ratio while you were there?!?!?! I met my husband on the ballroom dancing team in college, and I was one of five or six ladies whom he had to parter because there weren’t enough gentlemen to go around. Ladies are definitely impressed by a guy who can lead, and it’s sort of built-in romance. Can’t beat it. I hope you have a great time!