Why You Should Master the Art of 'Lazy' Exercise

Photo: wavebreakmedia (Shutterstock)

In college, I knew a girl who did a lot of her studying at the gym. She'd bring a textbook and prop it up on the treadmill, and somehow it worked for her. I never tried it. It would result in me having a bouncey book, a bad workout, and not being able to tell you a word I had written.

Although I don't know how she did it exactly, I have a similar habit. My morning routine consists of hopping on a spinning bike to do some cardio. My phone is where I spend most of my time while working out. I'm texting friends, reading articles, and planning my day. My legs are moving, but so is my brain.

To be clear, this is not the only exercise that I do. I also have my weight lifting, my kettlebell collection, and my high-intensity intervals. Exercise that doesn’t feel like work is valuable.

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Walking is the most obvious example. Walking is the best example. This thinking can be applied to other forms of exercise.

It is a great place where to start. When I first started dragging myself to the gym in the early mornings (before the pandemic, before my home gym) I would begin each session in the gentlest way possible. I would walk to the rows of exercise bikes, looking for a recumbent model with a back. I would slouch in that seat, churn the pedals, and try to wake up. It usually worked within 5-10 minutes. Then I would hop up and start my real workout.

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Steph Auteri wrote in Book Riot about exercising while reading. This made me think of my friend on the treadmill. But she goes a different direction. While you're reading, it turns out you can stretch and center yourself in a variety of yoga poses. She reads in butterfly pose, in a pancake stretch, in a seated twist, and even in a supported bridge pose. These moves are not the most intense exercises a person could do. These moves aren't the most intense, but they beat not exercising.

I find that I get more exercise when my mental exercise doesn't count. A good example of this is an hour spent on the bicycle, my heart rate in zone 2. It's where you'll find me most Sunday mornings. While cycling is not "Real Workout", ten minute of texting and reading while on the bike is acceptable. I do this without hesitation, but also don't feel like pushing myself to do it. After those ten minute, I usually feel sufficiently energized to turn up the intensity and put my phone down. This is another advantage of lazy exercise.

The funny thing about it is that if your thinking like an athlete, then you will probably need more lazy exercise in you life. If you are a runner, should do most of your running at a slow pace. Perhaps you can do that on the treadmill. If not, perhaps an incline treadmill walking or a session on elliptical are more your speed.

So figure out where you can add some lazy exercise in your life. While you're doing it, read, text, or listen to an audiobook or podcast that doesn't fit with a strict workout routine. Try to finish the week without doing more exercise than normal.

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