How to exercise (without really exercising)

Not everyone likes exercise, and that’s okay. Don’t want to hear about sets and reps and sprint times? Here’re some ideas about ways to move that you might not have considered.


For some people, having to think about what they want to do at the end of a day of work is too much – they just want to go to the gym and have an instructor or a personal trainer direct them. For others, they are concerned about a specific health issue, or want to work towards specific fitness related goals, and so they seek the help of an accredited exercise physiologist. But there are some people for whom the thought of going to a gym or doing a prescribed set of movements sounds like the worst thing they can imagine!

Maybe you think you just don’t like exercise. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience as a teenager (being teased at school for being bad at soccer never did anyone any good) or maybe you don’t like the feeling of being hot and sweaty. Maybe you’re worried about people judging you while you’re running, or worried that you look weak lifting the pink dumbbells at the gym. Or maybe it’s just doing he same things week in and week out gets you bored.

Fair enough! There’s no rule to say that you must like the traditional forms of exercise. But the solution isn’t to do nothing. Movement helps your health and wellbeing in a myriad of ways – even if you never set foot in the gym. Some of these include decreasing your risk of chronic disease, decreasing joint pain and discomfort, giving you more energy and helping you sleep better, and improving your mood.


How to exercise without really exercising

Don’t want to hear about sets and reps and sprint times? Here’re some ideas about ways to move that you might not have considered…


  • Take up a martial art – there’s a big mindfulness aspect to many martial arts, so it’s a workout for your brain as well as your body. You will be focusing so much on trying to coordinate the movements you won’t realise how much energy it takes.
  • Kayaking or canoeing – getting out in nature helps you to de-stress, coupled with the calming effects of movement – a winning scenario. (Just make sure you receive the proper safety training from a club near you).
  • Free dance – like No Lights No Lycra, or 5rhythms. There is nothing planned or exercise-y about these dance groups – just a bunch of people dancing and getting sweaty for fun (in the dark, in the case of NLNL – no need to feel self-conscious!)
  • Rock-climbing – you’ll be so distracted by the challenge of looking for your next hold (or how high up you are!) that you won’t realise you are working out the muscles of your arms, legs and core!
  • Got young kids? Or have any friends with young kids? Offer to take them to the park, and don’t just sit and watch them play – join in. Playgrounds and parks offer so many options to move without exercising – swinging on swings, climbing through tunnels and sliding down slides. Great for quality time with the kids, plus, it’s fun to let your inner-child play sometimes!

There are so many ways to be active and move your body that don’t involve repetitive motions inside a stuffy room. See if you can stop thinking of exercise as a chore, and instead think about ways that you can play and have fun that also involve some sort of body movement. Try out some different activities until you find one that you enjoy – that way it stops being ‘exercise’ and becomes ‘fun’.



Louise is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) specialising in mental health.