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.

Let’s talk about 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.

If you’re looking for some guidance in this crazy world of ‘losing weight and getting in shape,’ I hear ya – this stuff can be overwhelming. Expert instruction, accountability, and an instructor that gets to know you better than you know yourself, sound good? Check out our 1-on-1 coaching program to get paired up with a coach today.

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: If you’re reading this because you HATE exercise but think you SHOULD be exercising, I hear ya. I too hate certain kinds of exercise, so I don’t do them – you’ll never catch me running because I strongly despise boring cardio!

If you are here because you’re trying to lose weight and want somebody to guide you through the entire journey, and who will ALSO never make you do exercise you hate, consider checking out our popular 1-on-1 coaching program. Your coach will get to know you, your likes and dislikes, and work with you to build an exercise plan and food strategy that you actually enjoy and also gets you results!


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

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  • Suguru

    Good on you for taking the Swing dance class! I dance Modern Jive (sometimes called Ceroc) which is a basically a marriage of West Coast Swing, Salsa, Lindy hop and Rock and Roll with the footwork super simplified. Besides being amazingly fun, three and a half hours of dancing sure is a good cardio workout! If you enjoyed it, please keep dancing! I think it’s such a shame that so many blokes are hesitant to try partner dancing – a shame for them because they are missing out and a shame for us ladies because if there’s a shortage of leads someone always misses out on a dance during Freestyle!

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  • diana

    this was awsome i enjoyed reading.Thank you so much.

  • diana

    i love biking.Thats my exercise.im now 90 kilos on my way to 55kilos :)) goodluck to me

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  • Maria Fenn

    Playing and dancing can be the best workout.

  • Alex Gaw

    I discovered this site recently, have been reading the articles like crazy, going to the gym frequently, and implementing the advice I’ve found here. Before this I’d avoided any sort of formal workout for maybe six months. It was tough, of course, especially because I am doing exercises I didn’t do much even when I did work out. But it would have been so much tougher if it weren’t for swing dancing (lindy hop specifically). I’ve been dancing for about five years. I teach and practice and social dance and compete frequently.

    The benefits of lindy hopping are numerous. It’s active, it’s social, it is difficult and fiddly which is good for nerdy types, it is supported by a global community much like NF, and it exposes people to an aspect of American cultural history that often gets glossed over or caricatured. More importantly, though, is that despite the fact that I’ve been active my whole life–doing myriad martial arts, sports, parkour, and an on-again-off-again love affair with weight training–lindy hop is hands down the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Hurray swing dancing!

    Also, if you (or other readers) tried it at a ballroom studio, that’s awesome, but I encourage you to see if there’s a place in your area that specializes. Dancing is great no matter what, but ballroom dances are approached differently than the vernacular swing dances that were popular during the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Ballroom has a version of swing, but it’s smoother, focusing more on a certain type of aesthetic than on the unfettered, individualistic joy that partnered jazz dancing originally offered. Sorry to be long winded. Swing is sort of my bag. If anybody doubts the coolness and fitty-ness qualities of swing, let me present the following videos (the dancing in which, by the way, is completely improvised):


    Ok I swear I’m done.

  • Terry Salah Haddin Charles

    I been getting back into shape since winter started due to me putting on some extra pounds, I love the fact that winter everything slow down. Anyways Tony these two companies are hiring http://northernvaroofing.com and http://northernvawindows.com , since getting a new job is your priority right now.

  • Larry Carlton

    this is nice post for everyone. workout is good for our health. thanks for sharing .

  • Amber

    Hooping. Sure it’s more girly but ask my bf what kind of cardio and ab workout he got his first time trying my hoop out. 😉

  • Alyssa

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who isn’t too fond of exercise; although, I do try. Love this site. So many great ideas for even us non-exercisers. I really like Michael Blauner’s site. http://michaelblauner.com/ He has some great ideas too to make the most of a workout, without having to spend an hour at a gym.

  • Maddie Miller

    I am looking at mixing up my exercise regime and this post has just inspired me to really get to it even more!

  • Lauren

    Love this post! Especially the “I don’t have time” comment it definitely resonates with me. I think putting in the time is definitely important, but I think doing something challenging and that you will enjoy and therefore make time for is also integral!

    Also, as you seem to be interested in health and lifestyle I thought you might be interested in Beta Glucan , its completely natural and helps to regulate and boost your immune system, reducing the chance of sickness. You can find out more at http://www.natureandlife.com! Hope that you have a lovely weekend, Best wishes x

  • swaggmanXD


  • swaggmanXD


  • swaggmanXD

    ninja style

  • swaggmanXD



  • Marcus Smith

    Nice Post, all fun while reading, didn’t noticed time, when it was finished.
    For more exercise programs I found this http://www.innerfight.com .

  • Stephen Mallard

    Great article. Check out my exercise and fitness blog too! ex-nutfitness.com

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  • Bridgitt Lee

    I’m into fitness, being active, outdoor stuff, and the gym and pool, but I’ve wanted to try rock climbing and get into rollerblading/snowshoeing. Who knows?

  • Nice work.With more technology we are becoming less active.I make sure I keep moving.

  • I love this! What a great article. I have been trying for years to get a group of friends together to plan and execute free, FUN non-workout workouts. It’s nice to know there are other people out there doing it.

  • Teresa Dean Smeigh

    I am good with the excuses, but you sure have many things to try, but aside from walking and I can barely do that what else is there for someone who is disabled?

  • Great share.. I’ve always wanted information like this. Thank you!

  • Felicia
  • Peter Bardsley

    almost 73 I’m past jogging but enjoy cycling can do 25 pushups 4 times daily & a full week building,after
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  • Erin Yilmaz

    I currently work in a toxicology lab which requires me to stand all day and while I think it is better than sitting all day, I am not sure that it’s such a good thing. When you stand for a long period of time, you tend to shift your weight to one side more than the other and it can cause stress on your knees and feet. I also had another job which required moving all day and no sitting and that was actually a LOT easier than standing in one place and much easier on my legs.

    On another note, I really want to try parkour! Definitely going to check out your beginner’s guide! 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing this motivational fitness articles and i would like to add useful reference for fitness motivation: http://fitzenia.com/

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  • Jeremy Alemany

    I pledge my life and honor to the Holiday Watch.

  • Ara

    My child is overweight and doesn’t want to exercise, any way I can help her?

  • Jeanette Q

    Thanks for the great article! It’s motivating to know that exercise can and should be fun. My son recently told me about Parkour and it sounds like a blast. Might like to try it sometime soon.

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  • Sara N.

    OMG I lived in Jordan for a long time. Squat for #1 and #2 was a challenge 😀

  • Bernadette Miller

    I just want to say thanks for the great article, and thanks for the lack of a bazillion ads popping up everywhere. You have inspired us (57 and 63-year -old nerds) on this morning-after-the-evening-we-decided to get fit. I just signed up for your emails. Looking forward to it!

  • stevo

    Great way to work out without a gym!

  • this is an amazing article: all the benefits of working out without the downsides of it! it makes me think that the no pain no gain thing is so overrated

  • Phong Su

    thank you my friends and family has kept calling me fat for years but ive gotten in troublefor it because i retalliate but now i wont have to hear that ever again

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  • Foxpro

    Try rollerblading with ski poles. Just don’t forget all the safety equipment.

  • Nancy Fingerhood

    Partner workout for out of shape women

  • Perni G.

    Great article. Thanks for the ideas. It’s been quite the challenge bouncing back after giving birth 18 months ago. I think I’m going to try something new and take a martial arts class.

  • huy

    “Exercise is anything that elevates your heart rate and takes your body outside of its normal comfort zone.”
    me – Why would you do hard to memorize long intense cardio workout when all you have to do is play fnaf or something

  • Lynne Morgan

    acroyoga ! hate yoga

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