February 14, 2021

Incidental Exercise – the Clayton’s of the Exercise World

By Lisa Jane

Just as Clayton’s is ‘the drink you have when you’re not having a drink’, incidental exercise is the exercise you get while not specifically exercising.

Gardening, hanging the washing out and walking from the car park to your destination are all examples of incidental exercise activities.

Our busy lives can make it difficult to find time to hit the gym or head out for a run - unfortunately exercise often gets put in the ‘too hard basket’ even though we know we need it. Increasing your incidental exercise is a great way to increase how much exercise you get without dramatically impacting on your usual routine.

A few small tweaks, a little adjustment here and there, and you may be surprised at how much better you feel from including that extra bit of exercise into your life.

Here are some helpful tips on ways to increase your incidental activity -

At Work
  • Walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift (with Covid restrictions reducing how many people can be in a lift at once, it’s sometimes more time efficient to walk!)
  • Cycle or walk to work instead of doing the daily commute.
  • Get off the train or bus a few stops earlier or park further away and walk.
  • Leave the office during your lunch break and go for a 10–15-minute walk. Clear your head, stretch your legs and take some deep breaths – an added benefit is reduced stress levels and higher productivity.
  • Become a pacer - walk around the office during phone calls if possible.
  • Try the new coffee place a few blocks over instead of the closest to you.
  • Get up from your seat and walk over to colleagues to talk to them instead of communicating electronically.
  • Take or leave comfortable walking shoes at work – being properly equipped gives you one less excuse not to exercise.
At Home
  • Do some gardening, mow the lawn, pull the weeds, clip the hedge, dig a veggie garden.
  • Add exercise to the housework for example when hanging out washing place the basket away from the clothesline so you have to walk further to pick up each item to peg it up… and do the same when getting the washing in.
  • Go for a short walk before breakfast or after dinner.
  • Be active while watching TV for example ride an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill.
  • Do squats or calf raises while waiting for the kettle to boil or for the microwave timer to beep.
  • ‘Active Ads’ – during TV commercials do something active, for example squat, walk or try some core exercises.
treadmill tv

And for those of us who don’t watch Free-to-air TV (so don’t get ad breaks) here’s a fun way to get off your butt while enjoying streaming services:


Watching Netflix, Disney, Amazon Prime, other streaming services is how a lot of people relax. And there’s nothing wrong with that …except you just sit there on your butt, doing nothing except lifting your arm to either sip wine or eat chips.

What if we could add a little movement into your binge-watching …in a fun way?

Of course, you can always put the treadmill or exercise bike in front of the screen … but you still have to motivate yourself to use them.

This idea originates from playing drinking games in front of the TV. We would make our margaritas, choose our shows, and then select some ‘prompts’ that would mean we could take a sip. 

Only instead of drinking – what if we did some quick exercise on every trigger? For example, if a character performs a certain action, you do a very quick specific exercise while still enjoying your show.

Make a game of it, make it fun, get excited. Imagine scenarios like - whenever someone sits, you yell “SQUATS”, jump up, do 5 squats and then sit back down.

How cool would that be? Make it a family game – younger kids will love it and keep you motivated. 

Some examples of prompts --

Character action                                         Your action

Running                                                        10 High Knees

Drinking                                                         5 Bicep Curls

In bed                                                             5 Push Ups

Fighting                                                         10 Straight Punches

Sitting                                                             5 Squats

Kissing                                                           5 Flies

You get the picture …. Use this as a guide, choose a few actions or go wild and do them all! Your brain will get a workout too!

Leisure Time
  • Park further away from the shopping centre entrance than usual so you have to walk further.
  • Do an extra lap of the mall or shopping centre.
  • Find somewhere you love walking – whether it be beach, bush or city.
  • Play with the kids, instead of just watching.
  • Organise active family outings.
  • Walk around the field while you’re watching your kids participate in Saturday sport.
  • Walk to your local restaurant/shops/café instead of driving.
  • When meeting friends for coffee, instead of sitting in the café get takeaway coffee and catch-up and chat while walking.
  • Check out the StoryCity app – it has ‘Choose your own adventure stories’ for quite a few places around Australia and is a ton of fun!
  • Incorporate walking into an activity you love for example photography or finding street art.

Some fun family outings to choose from!

  • Hire canoes, paddle skis or stand up paddleboards for a fun activity
  • Hire push-bikes for the afternoon (or ride your own!)
  • Head down to the local pool for a swim
  • Keep a soccer ball, skipping rope or frisbee in the car ready to play

It’s amazing how much exercise you can add into your life via both the things you HAVE to do, and the things you LOVE to do.

What can you do today to add a little more activity into your routine?

Lisa Jane

I believe in a holistic approach to health and fitness and making small, incremental changes to improve your lifestyle. It isn’t about how you stack up against everyone else, it's about how you feel about yourself! It’s more than your exercise or your food, it is your attitude and your well-being!

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