Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 17, 2020

Video Games


You can fence, box, dance, and play virtual tennis, basketball, and other sports. In one study, people who walked, ran, and climbed on a special mat during a fantasy role-playing game did more exercise than if they’d spent the same amount of time on a treadmill. As a bonus, if you play active games, you’re more likely to do more “non-gaming” exercise.



Want to get two things done at once? You’ll get a “moderate” workout if you wash and wax your car, clean out the gutters, or mop or vacuum the floors. It’ll help get you in better physical shape, and a clean car or house may boost your mental well-being, too.



You might not think of it as exercise, but if you dig, bend, and clip around your garden for 30 minutes or so, you’ll get a decent workout. And it may even put you in a better mood. If you don’t have a plot of your own, consider volunteering at a community garden. They can probably use the help.



You’ll burn around 5 calories a minute, about as many as with a brisk walk. And you’ll use about the same amount of oxygen as if you were raking leaves. Plus, research shows that it may help prevent heart disease, though that only seems to be true if you’re in a healthy relationship.



If you like to take walks with a purpose, look online for secret “geocache” spots in cities, parks, or along hiking trails. You follow clues, usually GPS coordinates, to track them down. You could find a prize in the cache or sign your name in a journal that proves you were there.



It can be social, and it’s lots of fun, even if you do it by yourself. It can tone your muscles and strengthen your heart and lungs. It also might lift your spirits. All you need is a bit of music to get your groove going.

Take That Meeting on the Go


When you need to talk with a co-worker, hit the trail (or sidewalk) and kill two birds with one stone. You’ll get some exercise,and it might also make your meeting more creative. Just keep it to no more than two or three people. More than that can make it hard to really engage.

Join a Team


Whatever your interest or skill level, there’s probably a sports league in your area that will work for you. You’ll be less likely to skip out because your teammates will count on you for practice sessions and games. And the heat of competition could make you forget you’re getting a workout.

Outdoor Sports


If you like to be outside but don’t want to commit to a league, head to the park and join a pickup game of whatever’s going on: soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, touch football. Even playing catch will get you moving around.

Indoor Sports


Don’t want to deal with hot or cold weather? Indoor games can get your competitive juices flowing, like basketball, racquetball, or volleyball. You can do many “outdoor sports” -- like swimming, soccer, and tennis -- indoors, too.

Interval Training


Just three 20-second “sprint” intervals -- running or cycling, for example -- seem to offer about the same benefit as a 50-minute jog. Even with the warmup, cool down, and rest between intervals, that’s just 10 minutes of your time, compared with almost an hour for a run. Ask your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a while, and start slow.

Batting Cage


You can practice your swing for a team if you’re on one, or relive the glory days of your youth. Either way, you’ll likely have to concentrate so hard on the ball coming at you that you won’t have time to think about how you’re getting some exercise. Just be sure to wear a helmet.



This doesn’t have to be a purposeful stroll. Park at the back of the lot when you go to the store. Walk over to your co-worker to tell them something in person rather than send an email. When you take out the trash or pick up the mail, keep going around the block. All those steps add up. 

Martial Arts


Get into shape while you learn how to defend yourself. It helps you focus your attention and may keep your brain sharper than sports like running. And “light” contact types like karate, judo, and taekwondo are pretty safe, compared with other sports, as long as you train with a qualified instructor.

Zombie Runs


You say you’ll only run if something’s chasing you? Well, that can be arranged. Zombie courses often have obstacles to get over or creeks to run through and may run on mud-covered trails. And if that’s not enough motivation, members of “the living dead” watch from secret locations and jump out to steal your vital organs (in the form of flags) as you try to finish the race.

Show Sources


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SOURCES: “Outbreak Zombie Run.”

American Heart Association: “8 Best Active Video Games for Kids.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Why Sex Is Good for Your Health, Especially Your Heart.” “4 Awesome Geocaching Challenges in Georgia.”

Journal of Health Psychology: “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress.”

Journal of Human Kinetics: “Martial Art Training and Cognitive Performance in Middle-Aged Adults.”

Harvard Business Review: “How to Do Walking Meetings Right.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Is sex exercise? And is it hard on the heart?”

Mayo Clinic: “Walking: Make it count with activity trackers,” “Rev up your workout with interval training.”

National Geographic: “Geocaching.”

Nemours Foundation: “Safety Tips: Baseball.”

NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research: “Can active video games get young people up and moving?”

NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “Guide to Physical Activity.”

NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Staying Active at Any Size,” “Get Moving to Take Charge of Your Health.”

NIH News in Health: “Opportunities Abound for Moving Around.”

PlosONE: “Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment.”

Sports: “Martial Arts and Metabolic Diseases.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition.”