Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

You are here

By Kate Silver

This article originally published on

The biggest barrier to getting in shape is often all in your head.

When is the last time you decided it was too hot/cold/dark/expensive/exhausting to go to the gym, and talked yourself out of it?

The truth is, you don’t need a gym membership to get in shape. You just need a little willpower and some fresh ideas to incorporate working out – and feeling better – in your daily routine, whether you're at home or on the road. The key, says physical therapist David Reavy, who owns React Physical Therapy in Chicago, is to actively engage your muscles throughout the day, even when you’re sitting still. “The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn. You can start to get in shape by using your muscles with everyday tasks,” says Reavy. “So you did a 30-minute abdominal class? That’s great – but the reality is your abdominals should always be working.” He shared some tips and tricks on how to engage your muscles and get in shape away from the gym floor.

*Be sure and check with your doctor before starting any new workout routine.

  1. You can be active even when sitting. “Active sitting,” says Reavy, is when you use your abdominal muscles and your latissimus dorsi – that’s a back muscle that’s one of the largest in the body – while doing nothing other than sitting still. The key to using those muscles: stop slouching. Only then will those muscles get to work. “If you sit for eight hours in this position, you are using your abdominals for this long,” says Reavy.
  2. Walk with a purpose. Walking is a great way to engage your muscles. But, says Reavy, you must walk with intention and be mindful that you’re making the most of each stride. Be sure you feel your abdominals, your glute muscles (i.e., your posterior) and your lats (that’s latissimus dorsi, aka your back muscle). “Making sure you extend your hip and push off through your big toe will get the posterior muscles working,” says Reavy. “These bigger muscles will burn more calories and have less fatigue.”   
  3. Your body can act as its own weight. You don’t need a fancy set of weights to work out individual muscle groups. There are countless ways to put your own body to use, from planks and pushups to squats, burpees, and lunges. “The benefit is getting stronger in your range of motion,” says Reavy. “Using the weight of your own body can be incredibly challenging and effective.”
  4. Technology is your fitness friend. Fitness apps are plentiful, ranging from free to subscription-based. There’s something out there for every level of fitness and fitness need, whether you’re looking for motivation, accountability, new workout ideas, or more. Different apps can guide you through yoga workouts, timed runs, cycling, and even boot camp all far away from the fluorescent lights of the gym. And don’t forget YouTube. You can find almost everything you need to get in shape on YouTube (here’s a link to React Physical Therapy’s channel, for example, which takes you through dozens of exercises).

Whatever you do – YouTube workout, app-led exercises, or otherwise – be sure to warm up and engage all of your muscles, Reavy cautions. “Start with the dynamic warmup to get all of your muscles firing and then choose muscles and areas you need to strengthen,” says Reavy. By warming up and taking a whole-body approach to working out, you can build muscle and move more efficiently. You may even soothe aches and pains through conditioning.  

Feeling like you need to jumpstart your workout routine? Opt for activities that allow you to be active anytime, anywhere. Then, you have no excuse not to work out.