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17 Alternative Exercises That Don’t Feel Like Exercise!

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

alternative exercises

Fitness doesn't just mean spending hours in the gym. Keep your body moving with alternative exercises to help you burn extra calories without even realizing it!

You don't have to complete planned, structured exercises every day to stay physically active.

In addition to regular workouts, consider alternative exercises to keep your body moving all throughout the day!

If weight loss is your goal, expend an additional 500 calories per day to help you drop about one pound of body fat each week.

Burn 1,000 calories more than you consume daily to help you lose about two pounds per week.

Keep reading for some great alternative exercises that will keep you fit — without even realizing you're working out!

No time for exercise? Check out these fitness tips for busy moms!

Examples of Alternative Exercises

Consider the following fun alternative exercises to stay active in addition to participating in planned exercise.

Go Dancing

Whether you dance with your spouse or children, dancing keeps your body moving to burn extra calories and optimize healthy weight management.

In fact, Harvard Medical School reports that a 155-pound person can burn 112-223 calories in just 30 minutes while dancing.

Take a dance class with your spouse or have fun dancing at home with your kids to get exercise without feeling like you're working out!

Garden Outdoors

Gardening outdoors with your family can help you burn an extra 167-172 calories in just 30 minutes if you weigh 155 pounds.

If you weigh more than this, you'll likely burn additional calories.

Weed your garden, plant trees, shrubs, or flowers, or do general gardening to spend much-needed time outdoors, be with your family, and keep your body moving!

Play with Your Kids Outside

You can get in a good workout by simply playing outside with your kids, while spending quality time with them.

Play basketball, soccer, football, baseball, tennis, kickball, volleyball, racquetball, or pickle ball with your family to stay fit without feeling like you're working out.

Spending time with your kids outdoors helps you expend 149-186 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 155 pounds.

Are you struggling to stay active lately? Try this family workout in the backyard!

Bike With Your Family

When the weather is nice outside, consider cycling with friends or loved ones.

Bike through your neighborhood or choose a longer bike path to help your entire family stay active.

Biking at a pace of 12-14 miles per hour helps you burn 298 calories in 30 minutes (if you weigh 155 pounds).

But you don’t have to cycle fast to reap the benefits of this alternative exercise.

If your children are older and training for track, cross country, or to simply stay in shape, consider biking along side of them while they train!

Golf and Carry Your Clubs

Golfing is a fun activity you can enjoy with friends or family. It's a form of alternative exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise at all!

Carry your own clubs to burn extra calories.

A 155-pound person can expend 130 calories in 30 minutes golfing with a cart, or burn 205 calories carrying clubs for the same amount of time.

Choose golfing over sedentary activities the next time you’re looking for something fun to do with co-workers, your spouse, or your kids!

Mow the Grass With a Push Mower

When it’s time to mow your grass, consider using a push mower instead of a riding mower to complete alternative exercise and stay fit.

A 155-pound person can expend 167-205 calories in 30 minutes mowing law using a push-mower, depending on the type of mower used.

If you mow your grass for an hour, you might burn over 400 calories!

Rake Leaves

Before you head out to mow your yard, complete additional alternative exercise by raking leaves.

Doing so helps you expend 149 calories in just 30 minutes (if you weigh 155 pounds).

If you weigh more than this, you can expend additional calories while raking.

If you have young children at home, rake the leaves into a giant pile so they can jump in it!

Shovel Snow

If you live in a cold climate, consider shoveling snow as a high calorie-burning exercise.

Shoveling can help you expend 223 calories in just 30 minutes.

Dress warm, recruit your kids to help you, and offer to shovel your neighbor's sidewalk too!

Go Bowling

When trying to decide between seeing a movie and bowling, choose bowling!

Doing so keeps your body moving and helps you expend 112 calories in 30 minutes, which is more than 200 calories per hour!

Reduce the number of people bowling in each lane to give everybody more turns.

Try Water Skiing

If you're looking for a fun, active hobby your entirely family will love, consider water skiing out on a lake!

Water skiing helps you expend a surprising number of calories: 223 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 155 pounds.

Consider wake boarding instead or participate in additional high calorie-burning water activities like swimming, treading water, tubing, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, or canoeing.

Consider Snowshoeing

If you live in a colder climate, or you're on vacation in a snowy place, consider snowshoeing as an alternative exercise you can enjoy outdoors with your family.

Secure snowshoes on your feet, dress warm, and go hiking outdoors to burn 298 calories in just 30 minutes!

Try Rollerblading

Rollerblading is an activity that doesn't feel like a workout, but you can boost aerobic endurance and lower body strength nonetheless.

A 155-pound adult expends about 260 calories rollerblading (or roller skating) for 30 minutes.

If you live in a cold climate or near an indoor ice arena, consider ice skating instead!

Coach Kids' Sports Teams

Believe it or not, coaching your child's sports team (vs. sitting down to watch them) helps you expend about 149 calories in 30 minutes.

If your kids are already grown or don't play sports, considering volunteering as a coach to stay active and make a difference in your community.

Grocery Shop

Grocery shop regularly to keep your body moving and burn extra calories, in addition to getting regular exercise.

If you weigh 155 pounds, you can expend about 130 calories in 30 minutes while grocery shopping with a cart.

Avoid shopping while hungry to make healthier food choices, and create a shopping list and stick to it.

Watch this video and learn how to read nutrition information on another level!

Do Heavy House Cleaning

Having a clean home can make you feel less stressed, and heavy house cleaning is an excellent way to complete alternative exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

For example, washing a car or your windows helps you expend about 167 calories (if you weigh 155 pounds) in just 30 just minutes.

Paint Your House

If you're looking for a way to improve the look of your home and stay active at the same time, consider painting the inside or outside of your house!

If you weigh 155 pounds, you can burn 167-186 calories in 30 minutes while painting.

Recruit friends or family members to join you, and reap the benefits of a higher market value for your home!

Meal Prep at Home

Preparing meals at home might not be your top priority, but cooking can help you burn an additional 93 calories in 30 minutes.

Choose healthy recipes and prepare meals when you have extra time.

Doing so means you can heat up prepped meals during a busy week without being tempted by convenient, prepackaged microwavable dinners or fast foods.

Meal planning for families can be tough. This video will provide you with a guide to easy meal prepping for weight loss for you and your busy family.

Ways to Optimize Nutrition

Getting proper nutrition is just as important as regular exercise and staying active throughout the day.

In addition to scheduling in 30 minutes of exercise and at least 30 minutes of alternative exercise, follow the nutrition tips below to maintain a healthy weight, minimize body fat, and optimize lean muscle mass.

Eat Small, Frequent Meals

If you stay active all throughout the day by doing alternative exercises, chances are you feel hungrier too.

Eat small, frequent meals or snacks every few hours to avoid hunger and overeating at meal time.

Aim to consume fruits or vegetables each time you eat plus protein-rich foods and healthy fats!

Fill Your Plate Properly

Know how to properly fill your plate to get the nutrition your body needs without feeling hungry or overeating.

  • Fill half of each plate with non-starchy vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli, bell peppers, etc.).
  • Fill one-fourth of your plate with chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, eggs, or other protein foods.
  • Fill one-fourth of each plate with fiber-rich starches. Examples include beans, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, and whole grains.

Add a healthy fat to each meal (nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, other plant-based oils, hummus, olives, etc.), and consume three servings of calcium-rich dairy foods or dairy equivalents.

Examples include plant milk, regular milk, cottage cheese, kefir, Greek yogurt, protein shake, and reduced-fat cheese.

Choose Healthy Snacks

Eating healthy snacks between meals can give you the energy needed to get through tough workouts and alternative exercises.

Consider some of the following nutritious snacks: nuts, seeds, protein shakes, protein bars, fruit with nut butter, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hummus with pretzels or vegetables, low-sodium turkey jerky, reduced-fat cheese, a tuna sandwich, or hard-boiled eggs.

Struggling to find snacks that are healthy for your family? Try these 5 healthy snacks you can make at home!

Eat Before Completing Alternative Exercise

To give yourself a boost of energy before alternative exercise or higher-intensity workouts, have a quick snack from the list above.

Within an hour or two after exercise, eat a meal or snack containing protein and some carbohydrates, such as a protein shake, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with fruit, nuts with pretzels, or a protein bar.

Prioritize Fiber-Rich Foods

Eating plenty of fiber can fill you up, keep you full longer, and lower your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.

Focus on fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, other legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains to meet your daily fiber requirement of 25 grams per day for women.

Say No to Soda

One of the quickest way to pack in empty calories, without actually filling you up, is to drink soda or other sugary drinks.

Consuming just two cans of soda can add 300 calories (mainly from added sugar) to your diet.

Even drinking calorie-free diet soda can make you crave sugar, as studies show diet drinks are linked with weight gain and abdominal obesity.

Instead, choose plain water, water flavored with fruit, 100% fruit juice diluted with water, low-fat milk, plant-milk, or a protein shake.

Try these 5 healthy drinks to lose weight at home!

Avoid Skipping Meals

Unless you're fasting for weight loss, avoid skipping meals.

Doing so can cause your body to break down muscle, decrease your metabolism, or increase your risk of overeating at meal time.

Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day whenever possible.

Come prepared when participating in prolonged alternative exercises by keeping nutritious snacks (and plenty of water) on hand!

Boost Your Protein Intake

While consuming too much protein isn't a great idea, increasing your current protein intake can help you drop weight (if that's your goal) or increase lean muscle mass.

If you work out regularly, aim to consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, or about 0.5 to 1 gram per pound of body weight each day.

Choose chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, other seafood, eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, legumes, tofu, seitan, nuts, seeds, protein shakes, or protein bars.

Limit Dining Out at Restaurants

The more you dine out, the harder it is to maintain a healthy weight, according to numerous studies.

Cook at home whenever possible or consider healthy meal delivery services if you're tight on time, rather than making fast food restaurants the norm.

Choose meals containing at least one vegetable plus a protein-rich food.

Nix Alcohol

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

Moderation means two drinks or less daily for men and one drink per day for women.

Alcohol adds unnecessary empty calories to your meal plan, which can contribute to undesirable weight gain over time.

Drinking alcohol also puts you at risk of developing certain types of cancer.

It can drain your energy, ruin a good workout, or make you too tired to complete alternative exercises.

Nix alcohol altogether or limit it as much as possible.

Stay on top of your nutrition on the weekend by using these 5 weekend diet tips!

Join a Healthy Eating Program for Women

If you're interested in custom meal plans, fat-burning and toning workouts, nutritious recipes, health coaching, social support, and weekly newsletters, consider signing up for the Fit Mother Project.

FMP is a program specifically designed with women's needs in mind.

It has helped hundreds of thousands of busy moms achieve and maintain their goal weights for life.

Try a free meal plan and workout today, in addition to completing alternative exercises most days of the week!

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Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

Our Fit Mother 30X Program (FM30X) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Inside FM30X, you’ll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Fit Mother Meal Plan with easy recipes for you and your family.
  • The metabolism-boosting Fit Mother 30X Workout (under 90 min/week) to kickstart your metabolism for fast fat burning.
  • VIP email coaching where we’ll personally walk you through the program.
Learn More About FM30X

*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on alternative exercises.

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