How To Stay Active At Home If The Gym Isn’t An Option

So the gym isn’t an option, and you can’t take any workout classes. How do you stay active? Whether you work from home or simply don’t like exercising outside, you still have plenty of options to stay active. Simple life changes can keep you fit even without a gym membership.

Simple changes, such as choosing the stairs and sitting on a different chair, could improve your physical health. Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that ten more minutes of exercise can extend your life. Learn how you can activate those ten minutes while you’re at home.

Stay On Top Of Your Chores

Any physical activity can extend your lifespan. In 2017, research in The Lancet concluded that people who do more chores have healthier hearts. Doing the laundry, washing the dishes, scrubbing in the bath– all can burn up to 200 calories if you do them for a while.

A woman folds her laundry.

However, chores don’t replace a full exercise session. Irish scientists noted that relying on chores for exercise makes people heavier. Although housework isn’t as sufficient as going to the gym, it can still increase your physical activity and mood.

If You Can, Stand While Working

Standing up more during your workday could do wonders for your health. In the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, a study discovered that employees with standing desks burned more calories. If you don’t have a standing desk, getting up for five to ten minutes per hour may make a difference.

Customers work at standing desks in a coffee shop.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

“A little change like standing instead of sitting can go a long way,” says personal trainer Rich Gaspari. Because standing places strain on your legs, it burns 50% more calories than sitting, he explains. Time to stand up!

Master At-Home Workouts

Can you manage a good workout at home? Yes, says Kevin Steele, an exercise physiologist and vice president of 24 Hour Fitness. With a yoga mat or some dumbbells, you can transfer your gym training to your house. “The key thing is that you do something, somewhere, sometime,” Steele told WebMD.

Twitter user Tough Mudder shows off workouts that you can do at home.

Exercise physiologist Richard Weil recommends following this format: warm-up, aerobic work, strength-building, stretching, and then cool down. But a quick walk and some strength training can also keep you fit without the gym.


There are dozens of exercises that you can perform while sitting at your desk. Personal trainer Badrul Islam suggests doing push-ups using your desk, or trying “knee tucks.” Sit on the edge of your chair, touch your ankles together, and lift your knees to your chest.

Jamie Atlas of Bonza Bodies demonstrates some exercises while at an office desk.
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

You can also buy tools that are built for desk exercise (or deskercise). For instance, you can buy elliptical, bike pedal, or left swing tools that sit underneath your desk. When you’re feeling fidgety, try some exercises.

Schedule Your Workout Time (And Write It Down!)

Decide when you want to work out, and write down your plan. Although many people consider a time and place, few write it down. In 2018, researchers concluded that people who record their goals are 1.4 times more likely to succeed at them.

A woman writes in her planner.

While planning your exercise routine, pinpoint when you’ll work out, where you’ll do it, what you’ll do, and how long it’ll take. After you write all this down, you’ll be far more likely to pull through because you’ll remember it better.

Always Choose The Stairs

Walking more can make all the difference to your physical health. According to research in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, climbing stairs to get a snack improved participants’ fitness. Further research by Harvard concluded that people who choose the stairs have longer lifespans.

A man climbs stairs.

“Walking more does have added value, especially when you walk briskly for a longer duration, up hills, or use your arms for more than just a comfortable gait and swing them with your body,” says fitness expert Debra Gray. When you have to choose between the stairs and the elevator, pick the stairs!

Pair Workouts With The TV

If you listen to a podcast or watch TV while exercising, don’t stop. In 2018, a study in the journal Appetite concluded that people who work out while watching TV have a more positive experience. They were more likely to exercise longer and more frequently with some entertainment.

A woman works out on her exercise bike while watching TV.
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Researchers from Columbia University suggest that TV watching could be the worst type of sitting. Those who watched TV for four hours a day are 50% more likely to get a heart attack or stroke. Lower your odds by exercising while watching.

Dress The Part

What you wear influences how you think. In 2012, researchers at Rice University discovered that clothes could change our mindset. For instance, participants who worked in lab coats paid more attention during meetings, while those in a painter’s coat did not.

A woman runs while giving the camera a thumbs up.

The same applies to exercise. If you dress up in workout clothes, you’ll feel more empowered to get active. But if you wear pajamas, you won’t. “It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” said lead researcher Hajo Adam.

Sit On An Exercise Ball, But Not For The Whole Day

If you don’t have a standing desk, you can sit on a workout ball for a certain amount of time every day. “Sitting on it forces you to stabilize your abs,” personal trainer Amanda Russell told Everyday Health. It “kickstarts” your abs and can lend you a brief workout.

A man works on his laptop while sitting on an exercise ball.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

However, don’t plan to sit on that ball all day. In 2006, Canadian researchers at Waterloo University noted that exercise balls did strain the abs. They noted that working the full day sitting on a ball may be too tiring. You can start off with ten to 20 minutes of sitting on the ball per day.

Take Walking Meetings

Do you take phone calls or Facetime meetings? If so, talk while moving around. A daily brief walk can enhance your health and lower your risk of chronic diseases, according to a study by the University of Miami. “Walking meetings” can give you some much-needed physical activity.

Employees walk while having a meeting.

Dr. Alberto Caban-Martinez, co-author of a pilot study on walking meetings, says that they have many benefits. Not only do they advance heart health, but they also boost your mood. A brief walk-and-talk can also increase your productivity levels.

Exercise While Cooking Dinner

You’re already up and moving while cooking a meal; why not take it further? You can perform lunges or wall sits while waiting for the water to boil. In between stirring, you can do five squats. Lift your knees to your chest whenever you have to roam around the kitchen.

A woman works out while cooking in her kitchen.
Zameisie 0101/Pinterest
Zameisie 0101/Pinterest

Not only will you get in more exercise, but you’ll also eat a healthier meal. During a 2020 study by the University of Washington, people who cooked at home had healthier diets than those who didn’t. They also saved $60 a month!

Force Yourself To Take Breaks

If you get so absorbed in your work that you forget to move, schedule breaks. Monica Thakrar, CEO of the business MTI, recommends getting up every 90 minutes. Set alarms every 90 minutes to walk around, use the restroom, do the dishes, or perform some other physical activity.

Friends walk and talk outside.

If these activities seem too little to make a difference, remember that the World Health Organization recommends taking short breaks every day. Play with kids or pets, lift the laundry basket, or sweep your porch. It’ll make an impact.

Take A Virtual Class

You don’t have to go to the gym for a class. Some gyms, such as Planet Fitness, stream classes that you can watch online. If nothing else, you can search for tutorials on YouTube that will guide you through any workout, from yoga to weightlifting to core strength.

A woman performs yoga while watching a class on her TV.
Health Host/Pinterest
Health Host/Pinterest

Although many of these programs are free, paying for one could keep you accountable. In 2017, research in Circulation showed that paying for a class motivates people to attend it for longer. Try a virtual class and see what works for you.

Blast Music

Certain songs can motivate you to move. In 2006, research in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that fast-paced music made participants run faster without feeling more tired. Because people enjoy matching their pace to the music, they don’t feel as fatigued, scientists explain.

A bicycle rider warms up while listening to music.
DAVID MARIUZ/AFP via Getty Images
Getty Images

Listening to music after your workout session can speed up your recovery, according to the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. Songs release serotonin and dopamine, which make you feel happier. And a joyful workout is more likely to be repeated.

Log Your Time Sitting VS Standing

How often do you get up and walk around? If you don’t know, write down your schedule. Recording your daily habits will tell you how often you sit, and with this knowledge, you can plan to get up more. In 2014, research in Psychological Science noted that writing down notes (preferably on paper) helps you learn and remember more.

A woman writes in her journal.

Once you know how often you get up, you can plan to stand up more or less. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, writing a to-do list makes you more likely to pull through with it.

Adopt A Dog

Scientists assert that dog owners get more exercise. According to research in BMC Public Health, dog owners walk 22 minutes longer than those who don’t have a pet. And they didn’t just walk longer; they also increased their pace and grew stronger.

A runner jogs with his dog.
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

In another study in Nature, dog owners were far more likely to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. Less than half of Americans meet this goal. If you need more motivation, consider adopting a new friend.

Keep Exercise Equipment Nearby

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is true for exercise. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, recommends making your goals visible to do them more. For instance, if you leave a bowl of apples on the counter, you’re more likely to eat them. Likewise, if you keep workout equipment nearby, you’ll be more likely to do it.

Weights sit on the floor.
Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Joanne Markow, chief of staff at GreenMason, recommends leaving out yoga mats, weights, or push-up bars. When your exercise equipment is “in your way,” you’ll remember to do some reps during your break.

Leave Snacks In The Kitchen

Don’t leave food at your desk. When you leave food in the kitchen, you’ll stand up to prepare meals or snacks, which will force you to walk more. Brian M Harman, the owner of Business Management Hallmark, uses this simple technique to be “less lazy.”

A woman reaches into her kitchen pantry.
Jennifer Yang/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Jennifer Yang/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Although it sounds too easy, walking in and out of the kitchen makes a difference. The American Heart Association recommends standing up and sitting down at least ten times a day. If you have to get up to refill your water, you’ll hit that goal easily.

Find Someone To Keep You Accountable

If you’re struggling to work out, team up with someone to keep you accountable. According to research by the American Society of Training and Development, if you commit a goal to someone, you’ll be 65% more likely to achieve it.

Two people exercise outside in London.
Polly Thomas/Getty Images
Polly Thomas/Getty Images

You don’t have to exercise with someone to keep yourself accountable. You can text someone after you’ve worked out. If you find someone with the same goal, you can both work toward it together. You can also download a habit-tracking app, such as Habitica or Goalify, to log your exercise sessions.

Get a Fitbit, Pedometer, Or Apple Watch

Devices that log your steps, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, can motivate you to move more. A small study performed by User Testing showed that Fitbit owners felt more motivated to exercise. Simply buying the device encouraged participants to change their life habits.

A woman wears a fitbit.
Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Fitbit Local
Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Fitbit Local

These devices can also remind you to move more. According to a 2012 study, receiving reminders pushes people to exercise more. That said, Berkeley scientists noted that the Fitbit’s calorie counter isn’t very accurate. But it can still motivate you.