Energizer: Stealth Opportunities for Physical Activity

There are many ways to work physical activity into busy and hectic lifestyles. Scheduling dedicated time to walk, move, play a sport, or take a class are great. But you can also sneak up on physical activity by looking for unexpected opportunities to be active.

You’ve probably heard the advice to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or to park in the farthest spot away from your destination. But have you considered other stealthy ways to get in that physical fitness? How about taking the stairs two at a time? You could also do some jumping jacks or heel raises while waiting for the kettle to boil or the microwave to finish. Or there are these tips: perform squats while brushing your teeth, fast walk when crossing the street, or do biceps curls with your grocery bags while walking home. While seated, take the time to do some shadow boxing (contract the arm muscles and core for maximum effect) and pretend to work a speed bag or arm bicycle.

To add some organization and accountability to these unexpected opportunities, consider tracking the movements on the Walk this Way guide1, available in hardcopy and electronically and can be used with activity trackers or Smart phones. The guide has a calendar for tracking activity, helpful tips about staying active, stretches, and lots more.

Icebreaker/ Get Moving Component

To continue the theme of creative ways to get physically active, consider these motivational ways to make walking a healthy habit for life2,3, or for tracking creative ways to sneak activity into daily routines!

  1. At a gym, workplace, or physical activity group, hold a contest for the most creative way to sneak activity into everyday activities. Planking while helping the kids put away their toys? Anything goes!
  2. Form or join a hiking or walking group. Changing the location, duration and intensity of walks and hikes can lead to greater interest and commitment.
  3. Consider adding another element to a walk or hike. You could make it a photo hike, allowing participants to stop along the way to take pictures. Or introduce some meditation, breathing or yoga throughout the hike. Other ideas are to invite an Elder, historian or naturalist so that they can provide a unique perspective.
  4. Make activity accessible for those who might have limited mobility. Squishy exercise balls with a 12-inch diameter, the type used in barre class, can be used when seated. Place one between the knees and encourage participants to squeeze and pulse. Do the same with the ball between hands, with arms outstretched. Bonus – this could also be for stress reduction, especially when you ask participants to consider visualizing anything that is frustrating (from limited parking spots to dirty dishes left in the sink) and then squeezing their annoyance away. This can count as a replacement for steps!
  5. Use medicine balls for standing or seated tosses. Or switch it up and use the medicine ball as a bowling ball, rolled (not dropped) on the floor, towards some nearby pins or water bottles.
  6. Consider forming an intergenerational hiking group with kids and seniors. Hold it afterschool or on weekends so that children can attend. Choose a different location each week and discuss the flora and fauna and interesting environmental details. Consider offering two or more different groups based on pace.
  7. Organize social activities in support of walking and other physical activity groups. These could be healthy snack making sessions before or after a hike, breakfast, potlucks and more. Focus on healthy eating and providing fuel for the physical activity component, rather than the focus being on empty calories.
  8. Challenge the group to prepare to participate in a walking event (community fundraiser, or walk for a cause). There are also fun colour pod walks and runs, those with a tropical theme plus an obstacle course with inflatable challenges!
  9. Promote a “walk across the country” motivator by tracking kilometres and tracking progress across a large map. Celebrate at the end of the journey and milestones throughout!
  10. Offer incentives or rewards to participants who meet their personal goals. These could be books (to support additional exploration of a physical activity topic), music (gift cards or CDs to provide music to accompany activity), a gift certificate for an at-home exercise or yoga class download or DVD, or other small items.

Keep an eye out for unexpected opportunities to be active, and try supporting progress with the Walk This Way guide. Good lucking sneaking in some stealthy activity!

1PARC. (2012). Walk this Way Kit. Retrieved February 23, 2017 from: http://parc.ophea.net/resource/walk-way

2PARC. (2014). Walk this Way Leader’s Guide. Retrieved February 23, 2017 from: http://parc.ophea.net/resource/walk-way-leaders-guide

3PARC. (2013). Walk this Way First Nations Leader’s Guide. Retrieved February 23, 2017 from: http://parc.ophea.net/sites/parc-dev.ophea.net/files/pdfs/Resources/PARC_WTWFNGuide_25FE13.pdf