Smiling woman demonstrates easy workouts on a bed

Did you know that by moving just 2.5 hours a week, you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and more?[1] And it’s easier than you think to sneak in more activity. Exercising doesn’t have to be intense—heck, it can even be fun! Think simple stretches in bed when you wake up in the morning, a weekly dip in the community pool, walking to work, or after-dinner dance parties with your kids. Get inspired with these easy workout ideas.

If you want to try:

plus icon

1Stretches for flexibility

If your shoulders are always aching or your hips are stiff, it might be time to loosen up! A stretching routine will reduce tightness, improve flexibility and help to support the sports you enjoy by helping you bring your A-game when you do hit the track, pool or court.

Woman stretching in her office

Try: Sitting in front of a screen for prolonged periods of time will do a number on your neck, shoulders and back. Pause often throughout your workday to stand up and do a few overhead stretches. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends a five- to 10-minute break for every hour spent at a workstation.[2]

Women stretching her leg on the side of the road

Try: A standing quad stretch is a nice way to round out a morning walk or jog. Be sure to tuck your tailbone under and that your knee is pointing straight down. If you feel unsteady in the stretch, use a nearby bench or tree for support.

Woman doing yoga pose

Try: Start (or end!) your day with a gentle series of yoga stretches to build strength and flexibility.

Woman smiling while stretching on the floor

Try: Mid-Netflix binge is a perfect time to do some seated stretches. You can work out your hamstrings, hips and shoulders while you watch.

Woman stretching her arm

Try: A posterior shoulder stretch feels so good, especially if you’ve been hunched over your laptop or tablet. Be sure to stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and roll your shoulders down and back before you bring one arm across your body to stretch.

Start stretching

2Tracking your steps

Taking small steps towards incorporating more movement into your days can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing. In fact, walking is the easiest way to reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. It also builds strength, improves balance and contributes to better sleep.[3]

Back of woman and four children walking outside

Try: Start your morning off on the right foot by walking your kids to school or to the bus stop. If your workplace is close enough, why not keep on going? Or you can increase your steps by parking farther away from your office.

Two women smiling while walking together outdoors

Try: If you need some motivation, try joining a walking challenge on Twitter or Instagram to inspire you to set goals and go further. Ask a friend or neighbour to participate with you to make it even more fun (and keep you accountable)!

Woman smiling while pointing at her watch

Try: Keep your fitness tracker on throughout the day to stay motivated between walks. Don’t forget that you’re logging valuable steps even when you’re cleaning the house or gardening!

Woman and man walking outside in the woods

Try: Make it a social outing! Invite a friend to walk with you in the evenings to talk and catch up, or ask your partner to join you for a moving coffee date.

Yellow dog walking with its owner

Try: Your dog needs a daily stroll and so do you. Just a few brisk laps around the block is enough to get your heart rate up a little[4]—and tire out Fido, too.

Start walking

3Easy workouts you can do in bed

Don’t get up—really! On those mornings when you can’t quite make it to the gym (or evenings when going back out into the world, even for a stroll, just isn’t happening), a few easy moves in bed is the next best thing. Health Canada recommends doing exercises that target your muscles and bones at least two times a week,[5] and these fit the bill.

Woman smiling while demonstrating an exercise on her bed

Try: A round of bicycle crunches will get your lower abs and obliques fired up, and will be just as effective from the comfort of your bed.

Woman demonstrating an easy workout by her bed

Try: Dips are really effective for strengthening the backs of the arms and triceps. Place your hands on either side of your butt, fingers over the edge of the mattress and feet planted on the floor, knees bent to 90 degrees. For more of a challenge, extend your legs.

Woman demonstrating an easy workout on her bed

Try: To get the most out of this glute burner, focus on squeezing while you lift your hips and bum off the bed and then lower back down with control. To take a set of bridges to the next level, try lifting your heels, too.

Pregnant woman smiling while holding small weights on her bed

Try: Bicep curls can be easily modified to do in bed. Just pick up a pair of light hand weights, sit up straight and get to work.

Woman smiling while doing a yoga pose on her bed

Try: Don’t forget to work out your relaxation muscles, too. Sitting in bed is a great spot to do a round of breathing or meditation exercises. Try a guided stretching series (you can find one on YouTube or an app like Calm) followed by a meditation right before bedtime to help send you off to dreamland.

Start moving

4Swimming at the pool or lake

Swimming—whether it’s in the pool at the gym, a nearby lake or community beach—is a complete exercise that works nearly every major muscle group in your body, building strength and endurance.[6] It’s easy on the joints,[7] safe during pregnancy[8] and works for people of all fitness levels.[9] Plus, it feels so darn good.

Woman and child swimming at the pool

Try: Play with your kids in the water for a half hour and bingo—you’ve done a workout! Plus, it’s good for your little ones, too. Swimming helps kids with their agility, balance, coordination and overall motor skills.[10]

Woman swimming in the pool

Try: Front crawl is the speediest (and probably easiest) stroke to master. And doing just a few laps will work your shoulders, back, triceps and biceps.

Woman demonstrating a backstroke in the swimming pool

Try: Unlike walking or jogging, where there’s little variety, a swim can consist of several strokes to keep your workout fresh. Mix up your dips by alternating breaststroke, sidestroke, butterfly, front crawl and backstroke. (And doggy paddle, too, if you like!)

Two women smiling while doing easy workouts in the swimming pool

Try: If you tire of doing laps, sign up for a gentle aquafit class at your gym or community pool. A pool workout can include jogging, dance moves and strength training, sometimes using flotation weights. It’s a great option if you’re recovering from an injury or working with mobility issues. Fun fact: water aerobics was first made popular back in the 1950s![11]

Woman smiling while swimming at the beach

Try: Swimming has a calming and meditative quality, thanks to the sound of your breathing and the movement of the water. Whether you’re mostly floating or you’re smashing lap times, swimming is great for overall relaxation. Studies have shown that swimming can successfully reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the body.[12]

Start swimming

5Simple dance moves

No matter your body type, fitness level or experience, everyone can dance. It’s as easy as moving your body to a beat, which can be a great cardio workout that also enhances muscle strength and flexibility. Plus, a review of some 28 studies has proven that dancing can reduce anxiety, stress and depression.[13] And did we mention it’s fun?!

Family smiling while dancing in the living room

Try: A family dance party is a fun and easy way to get your bodies moving for a few minutes. Give everyone a chance to pick a song they would like to hear and you’ll have the whole gang grooving in no time.

Backs of woman and child dancing in front of the TV

Try: OK, so you don’t have to be a good dancer to reap the health benefits of moving and grooving, but you do need some skills to beat your kids at Just Dance. We suggest you start practicing!

Woman smiling while demonstrating a dance workout in the kitchen

Try: Dancing at home gives you a great excuse to curate some new playlists. Throw on a set of wireless headphones and crank the volume for a few songs while you make dinner. It can be as simple as that.

Woman demonstrating a ballet dance

Try: Dancing doesn’t have to be formal or serious—but it can be. If you’re ready to master some real moves, why not try a beginner drop-in adult class at a dance studio or on a fitness app? There are so many dance styles you can try, from ballet to salsa.

Couple smiling while dancing in the bedroom

Try: Add something new to at-home date night. A slow dance is a sweet and silly way to connect with your partner while you both sneak some steps in.

Start dancing

Article Sources

  1. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults.
  2. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. Stretching – at the workstation.
  3. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Walk your way to better health.
  4. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. What 10 minutes of physical activity can do for you.
  5. Health Canada. Physical Activity Tips for Adults.
  6. Red Cross. Welcome to Red Cross Swim.
  7. Harvard Health Publishing. Dive in for joint health.
  8. Loma Linda University Health. A helpful guide to swimming during pregnancy.
  9. Harvard Health Publishing. Dive in for joint health.
  10. Red Cross. Welcome to Red Cross Swim.
  11. Participaction. Aquafit.
  12. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Comparison of the inflammatory and stress response between sprint interval swimming and running.
  13. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. The effect of dancing interventions on depression symptoms, anxiety, and stress in adults without musculoskeletal disorders: an integrative review and meta-analysis.