World’s Easiest Exercises

Some people avoid exercise because it seems like so much work. But what if you could exercise without exercising? Sometimes you can get the benefits of exercise just by living a normal life.

Wear your workout
Several companies make clothing lines that squeeze your muscles as you move. Fila made “toning pants,” which were supposed to increase muscle exercise by as much as 50%. “Whatever you’re doing in the [toning pants], you expend a little bit more energy and a little bit more workout while you’re wearing them,” according to Fila spokesperson Jennifer Estabrook.

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A company called Sweetflexx sews resistance bands into their clothes. They are made with various fabrics, including “Flexxon Nylon,” “FlexxSupplex,” and “Cool Jade,” which includes crushed, powdered jade for cooling purposes. One user said, “As soon as I put them on, I wanted to go for a walk. An immediate motivator! I can feel them work.”

Because they squeeze your muscles, toning clothes tend to make you look good, and a report from Yale University documents that they build strength. The Sweetflexx website says, “Resistance bands increase lean muscle mass. They improve muscle strength and tone.” Since active muscles burn sugar, these pants might improve glucose control.

Fitness experts point out, however, that you have to move around to get the benefit of the toning clothes. Just putting them on and sitting on the couch won’t do anything.

Fila toning pants, where available, seem to run about $50 a pair, and Sweetflexx pants go for about $98 to $108 on their website. Reebok and other companies make similar products. Shirts cost less. They are machine washable.

Exercise with household stuff
You don’t have to wear anything special to get a free workout. The About.com physical therapy website lists many objects you might have lying around that can act as physical therapy. Hand towels can strengthen your grip. “Simply roll up a hand towel until it is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Grip the hand towel lightly, and hold your grip for 3 seconds. Slowly release your grip. Repeat the towel hand gripping exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions.”

You can use bath towels for shoulder stretches, as shown in this photo. If you wrap a rubber band over your index and little fingers, you can strengthen your hand just by spreading your fingers until the band stretches. Soup cans make convenient weights for arm exercises.

Daily life as exercise
Life itself can be as physical as we want it to be. The Guardian health writer Joel Snape has some amazingly simple ideas.

Watch TV while sitting on the floor, instead of in a chair or couch. You will find yourself squirming around and changing positions, keeping muscles active. Walk places instead of driving; use stairs instead of elevators. “Modern society’s done a good job of teaching us that saving effort is better,” says Snape, “but this is not the case when it comes to physical activity.”

The exercise site Workout Plan gives ways to turn housework into exercise. Chop vegetables or knead dough instead of using machines. Turn on music while you work. Use big gestures when mopping or cleaning windows or walls. “Housework is a terrific way to burn up calories,” they say. “Just running up and down the stairs involves an aerobic workout. Dusting can use up 173 calories. Vacuuming the carpets burns up to 193 calories per hour.”

None of these things might satisfy a physical fitness instructor, but they are examples of what is called an active lifestyle. They may rev up your metabolism in ways that improve your conditioning, lower your glucose, and make you feel better. The point isn’t to exercise; it’s to have a lively body.