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10 Sneaky Ways to Get Fit and HealthyŚWithout Really Trying

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/23/2009 7:00 AM   :  222 comments   :  234,585 Views

Faster than a speeding bullet, there's a new approach to healthy living can make you fit as a fiddle. And it's as easy as 1-2-3!

It's called "stealth health" and it's a philosophy that's gaining ground among experts, food manufacturers—and people who want to live a healthier life. Even if you haven't heard of it (I hadn't either), you're probably already using these principles into your life. The concept, as explained in this WebMD article is nothing new to most of us at SparkPeople. It's about taking small actions every day to improve your health, nutrition and fitness levels in BIG ways. We've been advocating a small-steps approach for years, whether in the form of 10-minute workouts or fast break goals. We believe that doing something is always better than doing nothing. And yes, that 10 minutes on the treadmill or that single serving of vegetables DOES make a difference.

When you start small, you feel accomplished. That initial success inspires you to make additional positive changes in your life. So you continue, getting healthier, fitter, and leaner over time—all by starting with a few small changes. Ask some of your SparkFriends, and I'll bet they'll say that this approach has worked for them.

As I read the article and tips about stealth health, I started to think about the ways I sneak a little bit of health into my days. I'm a big believer that small steps—in fitness, nutrition and motivation—really do make a difference, no matter where you are in your lifestyle journey. I use them all the time myself! So I came up with a short list of small things I do to affect my health in a positive way.

10 ways I sneak fitness, nutrition and motivation into my days—and you can, too!

Choose fruit to quell a sweet tooth. I have a big sweet tooth. When it calls, I try to eat a serving of fruit first. Fresh berries and yogurt, an apple with peanut butter or a simple fruit smoothie all pack nutrition and sweetness into a low-calorie package. Most of the time, these fruity treats do the trick, but if not, I'll choose a sweet snack knowing that I have boosted my fruit quota for the day before giving in.

Practice good posture in front of the computer. I try to be aware of my posture at work. I've set up my desk so that my computer screen is higher (to discourage slumping and slouching). I try to keep my back straight and my abs engaged (belly button pulled toward the spine). Good posture, believe it or not, takes a lot of work. Most of us don't have the strength and endurance to maintain proper posture (while standing or sitting) for very long, so it's something that I've been working on developing. If you have trouble sitting with good posture, start small. Set a few reminders on your computer (or a post-it note on your planner) to remind you to think about it and readjust throughout the day. Your posture will improve, your core will be stronger and I bet you'll experience less pain in your neck, shoulders and lower back, too.

Add fruit to pancakes, waffles, ice cream and other desserts. If I'm going to go with a sugary breakfast treat like pancakes, I'll add fruit to them like nobody's business. I pour one serving of blueberries (per person) into the batter. I top the finished product with another 2-3 servings of fresh fruit: bananas, blackberries, strawberries, chopped apples, pears—anything you like. I know that pancakes doused in syrup aren't exactly a healthy breakfast, but by adding some low-cal, filling, antioxidant-powered fruit to the meal, I know I'm getting some good nutrition along with my sugar fix. Same goes with ice cream. I'll try to add one serving of fruit to a serving of ice cream. It "stretches" your dessert further and boosts the nutrition of the final product. Next time you have a hankering for a dessert, look for a fruit-based one. It might not exactly be health food, but it's better than a sugary treat sans the fruit.

Sit on a stability ball. You can make this one small change at home or at work. I sit on a ball chair all day, which helps me sit with better posture and encourages me to keep my abs engaged for better balance and core strength. You can sit on a ball while you watch TV, use the computer at home, or sit at work. If you're going to be sitting, you might as well make it work for you!

Commit to 10 minutes of fitness. I don't care if you've never exercised or if you're a triathlete. Committing to 10 minutes of fitness can help you stick with a solid fitness program—and be successful on the days you really don't want to exercise. This is one of my best tricks to staying fit. This has worked for me for years and it will work for you, too! You can do a lot in 10 minutes (if you don't believe me, try one of my short workout videos). Every minute counts. Even five minutes can help pave the way to a fitter you.

Look at SparkPages and popular blogs. I spend a little bit of time each day perusing SparkPages and reading the popular blog posts on SparkPeople.com. I am amazed at the positivity and success of others, and some of them have great tips and ideas, too! If you ever think that you can't do it, look at some of these success stories to put your problems into perspective. Seeing so many people who have lost 50, 100, even 150 pounds or more makes me feel like my problems are miniscule in comparison and that I can go to the gym or bypass the Boston cream pie in the fridge if they were able to accomplish such great things. This quick motivational trick will help you stay focused. You may even help you meet some new SparkFriends!

Practice portion control. Measuring and consuming smaller portions of your foods is one of the easiest ways to make changes to your diet without feeling deprived. You can enjoy dessert, pasta, and other comfort foods as part of your healthy diet as long as you watch your portions. When it comes to treats, read labels and serve yourself a single portion. At your favorite restaurant, cut down on the calories and fat simply by eating half of the meal and saving the rest for later. If you ate half the size of meals you're accustomed to, you'd be eating half the calories, fat and sodium—a small change that will really add up.

Add more veggies to frozen meals. Of course, cooking meals from scratch is an important thing if you want to eat healthier. But we don't always have the time or energy to do that. I rely on frozen lunches (like Amy's brand) a couple times per week, but I never find them to be very filling or high enough in vegetables for my taste. My standby is frozen broccoli. I'll add at least 2 servings of it to every frozen meal. It boosts the veggie content and it's EASY. If you don't like the taste, try another vegetable you do like—or mix it into your meal to make it go down easier.

Walk through the office. I sit in front of the computer for more than eight hours each day, as I'm sure many of you do, too. Email is a nice timesaver, but I try to get up at least once or twice each hour—whether I'm walking to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing, heading to the café to get another cup of water, or choosing to use the restroom on the other side of the office. It's a chance to stretch my legs and add a few more steps to my otherwise sedentary day. One day I wore a pedometer to discover that one trip to the far-away restroom takes 100 steps. I choose that one over the one in my office, which is only 10 steps from my desk to add a little more activity to my days.

Exercise in front of the TV. Most nights, there's nothing I'd rather do than watch TV. Often, I'll do some simple core exercises, such as Pilates, while I'm watching my favorite shows—or at least during the commercials. Even if I just do three sets of 10 repetitions, it's better than sitting still!


Interestingly, not everyone is a fan of this approach. Associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, Marc Siegal, MD, told WebMD that the idea of stealth health is, "a small, gimmicky idea to target people with very unhealthy lifestyles," and that these small actions are like "using a Band-aid to stop a hemorrhage." In other words, stealth health isn't a long-term answer for the very people who need to make the most drastic changes to save their health. I can understand how some health conditions are dire and require immediate, sometimes drastic, changes, but I'm not sure I agree. I think that many people are overwhelmed by what it takes to get healthy, lose weight, or start exercising. Overhauling your diet, lifestyle, and exercise routine (or lack thereof) overnight is mind-boggling! This approach sets many people up for failure, causing them to give up before they even try. But starting with small tasks is manageable. Certainly, eating a piece of fresh fruit each day—even if that's the only healthy thing you do—matters, don't you think?

Do you think stealth health really works? What are some of the ways you sneak small bits of health, fitness or good nutrition into your days?


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Comments

  • NICOLE1005
    172
    This is a helpful article! Some stuff I already knew, other stuff I had forgotten about and new stuff I learned! - 10/2/2009   10:41:13 AM
  • 171
    Just started using my ball for a chair at the computer - It's so funny, I start for the table and don't see the chair top and wonder who took my chair! Of course, when I get there, I see the ball! Toooooo Muchhh!!!! Great recommendations! Thanks - 10/2/2009   8:42:42 AM
  • 170
    when i was at my heaviest, even walking to the car was a daunting task..what more a 30-minute workout...i think that an "all or nothing" mentality is one of the biggest reasons why people become overweight. You either exercise like mad and starve yourself, or you let yourself go, eat everything in sight and vegetate on the couch! Most people need to start with small changes in their daily routine and diet, so things don't seem too overwhelming and cause them to give up totally... - 10/1/2009   11:31:13 PM
  • SPARKINSTACEY
    169
    Thanks for the tips! I always like to read these to get better ideas...I just started loading my pancakes up with lots of fruit from another article I read in here. I would have never thought about adding more veggies to frozen dinners....great idea!!! - 10/1/2009   5:25:06 PM
  • SRAN729
    168
    Thanks for the article. I like all the tips I can get. We all know we need to eat healthier and to increase our daily activity to loose weight, but I believe it is the little things that help to keep the weight off! - 10/1/2009   2:05:15 PM
  • MARCIAKAYE
    167
    I enjoyed reading this article, saved it to my "inspiration file" and will be referring to it now and then. I've always tried to eat vegetables and fruits, but lately I've been trying to eat smaller portions of high calorie foods and have become more conscious of measuring /calculating calories. As a result, some weight has come off slowly. (Ten pounds in two months, ten or twelve more to go.) I have an active lifestyle, taking care of a handicapped husband, but my goal is to do more aerobic exercise.

    At present, my favorite way of exercising is what I call my "lazy girl exercises". I do these in bed before I get up in the morning, and they take about ten-fifteen minutes. I have back problems, so I incorporate stretching exercises that I once was instructed to do by a professional therapist. Since I'm not a morning person and often feel groggy in the a.m., these exercises both wake me up and limber up my grouchy muscles! - 10/1/2009   12:02:18 PM
  • KITTYSWANK
    166
    My #1advise on sneaking fitness in to your life is, Play with your kids. Work and life in general leave us feeling tired and unmotivated. The last thing we may feel like doing is playing with the kids but once you get started all the stress of the day will melt away. My 4 year old son and I love to dance. So we crank up the music and run and dance around the living room. We started this the minute he learned how to walk! He gets beneficial mommy and me time and I get the excerise I need! Win-Win! It's great bonding time. I also do lunges and squats and the like when I am doing things like brushing my teeth, blow drying my hair, ect... Multitasking is a beautiful thing! - 10/1/2009   11:44:09 AM
  • 165
    So small changes are "gimmicky"! So What! Everyone has to start somewhere! And once you start the habit, the changes can become larger. I love this idea. I have been doing a couple of the things (extra fruit on my oatmeal, fruit for snacks when I want something sweet, adding extra veggies to casseroles and one-pot meals) and learned a couple of new ones from this article. I have a stability ball, I'll give sitting on it for the computer and TV watching a try. Thanks for a great article. *S* - 10/1/2009   9:50:29 AM
  • VMASSEY1
    164
    Thanks for this article it was very informative. I have already implemented some of your ideas but the one about the balance ball sounds petty good. I think that I will try it. - 10/1/2009   8:49:43 AM
  • NANASHI
    163
    I think small habits have helped me keep away from gaining weight. But for losing weight, they're just not enough and a stronger plan is needed. - 10/1/2009   3:02:42 AM
  • VRLILLIS
    162
    I love the stability ball idea. I just got one for my birthday, and use it to sit on to watch tv at night. I plan on getting one for work also. - 9/30/2009   7:11:19 PM
  • 161
    When I started out, the big picture was really BIG. I began making small changes at a time just like in the article.

    I don't agree that small changes are gimmicky. They are a starting point that builds confidence and habits. After awhile, when things got easier and I felt better I began doing more.

    If I hadn't started small, I'd probably still be sitting on the couch feeling awful. - 9/30/2009   6:54:40 PM
  • 160
    Great article and hopefully just the motivation to get me loosing for October - 9/30/2009   3:00:13 PM
  • 159
    This is a very good article and I am definitely going to try to do some of these tricks to activate myself more. - 9/30/2009   2:01:15 PM
  • 158
    I think it can work, like you said if you have a long way to go and looking at that and what you need to do can be overwhelming, small changes are easier to handle and adjust to and you aren't so likely to give up. - 9/30/2009   1:40:27 PM
  • 157
    I think almost everyone could improve their health this way, whether they need to lose weight or not. Sure, making one little change in your daily habits isn't going to magically make a drastic difference overnight, but how many of us have spent years simply being too overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges we faced to even take the first step. I have read too many Spark stories to believe that starting with small steps can't be a perfect way for a lot of people to begin the journey to a healthier lifestyle.

    One thing I've been doing the past several months is adding one more vegetable serving to my evening meals. I had been pretty consistent about eating a total of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but I wanted to increase that to five vegetable servings, plus one or two fruits. I've gone back to cooking more casserole-type meals, which are very easy to add more veggies to, and are easy to pack for a sack lunch to take to work and easy to re-heat. Some of my favorites to add are spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, and green beans. - 9/30/2009   12:31:59 PM
  • 156
    Awesome advise!!! I love them all! My trouble spot is posture when sitting and standing. I will try to work on this more. Thanks for the great tips!!! - 9/30/2009   11:25:17 AM
  • 155
    This is a very good article. I'm always trying to sneak a little health into my days. I do a lot of stretching & strength training exercises while I'm at my desk, or at the copy machine, while watching TV and even in my bed!! Every little bit helps. - 9/30/2009   11:11:50 AM
  • NYNNIE
    154
    Just doing little things like this help and are better than nothing, but they won't get you truly healthy, fit, and strong. It's best to do these things on top of a healthy diet and lots of exercise. - 9/30/2009   11:07:05 AM
  • BRIANNEM
    153
    That is how I lost almost 15 lbs (before I joined Spark). Small changes like switching toast and peanut butter for milk and cereal for breakfast most days, taking the dog for more walks during the week, and having a protein bar for lunch when I am on the road all helped. - 9/30/2009   10:04:18 AM
  • 152
    I think these are great ideas. I've already adopted many of them. What is important to remember is that "stealth health" will not automatically (or fully) transform a person's life, but every little bit helps.
    Making these choices can jump start more good, healthy choices for someone who does not live a healthy life. And they can refresh someone who has been healthy and exercising for awhile who has hit a plateau.
    Great article! - 9/30/2009   9:36:52 AM
  • 151
    I think that anything that provides a reminder for us to take care of ourselves and/or make healthy decisions is terrific! It's not just calorie burn that matters - it all adds up! - 9/30/2009   9:32:37 AM
  • 150
    I love this approach - it really does make a difference for me! Plus, I get a kick out of being stealthy! - 9/30/2009   9:26:06 AM
  • KNIGHTOWL125
    149
    I agree with your suggestions, and I'm going to adopt some of them. I just put a post-it note on my monitor that says sit up straight. I walk a minimum of 11 blocks to work Monday through Friday. that may not sound like much to some people, but it is better than nothing. Thanks for your support. - 9/30/2009   8:11:45 AM
  • 148
    It's a good idea to sneak in extra exercise wherever, and whenever you can.When Any exercise is better than none.This is a stepping stone to longer exercise sessions, and eating healthier. The road to good health is hard and long process for many, even small changes here and there, make the task seem less daunting. - 9/30/2009   7:29:40 AM
  • 147
    I am not working the program right now, but I do agree very much about the stealth health approach. I am overwhelmed by the size of the task and the small-step method opens a door for me where I would be unsuccessful at trying to move the huge boulder. - 9/30/2009   3:59:49 AM
  • LALABOWERS
    146
    I think that stealth health makes sense. Not everyone has a drastic problem and these ideas are smart logical and realistic. I have friends that are so overwhelmed that they no longer even try. But just making little simple changes would help A LOT! I think stealth health is an AWESOME idea. - 9/30/2009   1:27:23 AM
  • NANABEARKATY
    145
    "Stealth health" tips seems like a good idea. I'm going to try this. I can recall my mom reminding me to sit up straight and to stand up straight. - 9/29/2009   11:37:40 PM
  • EVIE13
    144
    Little changes are better than nothing? Sure. But you're not going to lose that way. You'll get a little healthier, but unfortunately getting a little healthier and losing weight do not go hand in hand. Some of these "little" things are things that I've been doing my entire life. I need something less basic than adding some fruit to my lunch and taking the stairs. I need something that will actually do something. People like me are always left out. People who don't eat crap, do eat their fruits and veggies, park far away, take the stairs, do 10-15 of exercise, and practice portion control and have for most of their lives. To people like me, this article and all information like it are a piece of crap. - 9/29/2009   10:18:18 PM
  • 143
    I think anything helps. Even those who need drastic measures need a place to start. I wasn't totally into this program when I started but I did many of the little things listed here and now I have increased everything and am seriously committed. It only takes a *spark* to get a fire going. - 9/29/2009   10:15:55 PM
  • 142
    I think that doing these things in addition to a serious program that is committed to eating healthy and doing strength training (3-4 days a weekd) + cardio (6 days) is a good thing. However, to do only these things and expect to lose weight is kiding yourself. - 9/29/2009   10:11:48 PM
  • 141
    Of course this is a good idea. Sure, for those who need to overhaul their diets, this won't help. 3 portions of ice cream is 3 portions of ice cream even if you add fruit, but for most of us, little efforts go a long way and little reminders can push us through a plateau or on to our goal! Its a good plan! - 9/29/2009   8:20:50 PM
  • 140
    This goes perfectly with my view of life - it's all baby steps! I have made just small changes in the last three weeks and have lost 6 lbs so I know it can work.
    I will definatley incorporate some of the ideas in the article. - 9/29/2009   8:12:56 PM
  • NYCKNAME
    139
    Macerate the fruit for topping the pancake and you won't need syrup. Add oats to the batter, and a bit extra liquid to compensate. - 9/29/2009   7:57:47 PM
  • JAYMILOX
    138
    One "sneaky trick" I do is try to increase the intensity of all the walking I do throughout the day. Kind of like power walking, but from the car to school, into the store, walking the dog... etc.

    I also try and carry a basket opposed to using a cart when I shop if I don't have too many things to buy.

    I think, if you try to increase the intensity of all of the everyday life things you do, you'll have a much higher caloric deficit each day. - 9/29/2009   7:37:03 PM
  • JENACCOUNTING
    137
    Great ideas! Thanks! - 9/29/2009   7:13:27 PM
  • 136
    Regardless of who these tips target, I think everyone can benefit from them, even those of us already trying our best to live a healthy lifestyle. I plan to incorporate many of these as well as come up with my own. - 9/29/2009   7:12:17 PM
  • 135
    I agree with this whole-heartedly. Even walking around the house uses a lot of steps. I know because I've worn a pedometer that counts steps on several occasions & was astounded at how many steps you actually take during the day. With asthma & back pain, sometimes I can't actually walk. I have a dog that needs to be walked regularly so when I can't walk, I just take him across the street to where there's a small wooded area where I can (with a long leash) just let him roam around. And of course when he roams around I have to follow him. So I get some exercise anyway. And my dog is happy. - 9/29/2009   6:41:14 PM
  • VOICEWOMAN1
    134
    Most of this advice is good - except the posture advice. The fact is you should never be engaging your abdominals to just keep yourself erect- that is your spine's job. Your abdominals need to be free or your breathing is impaired. When your diaphragm moves down to allow the lungs to fill with air the abdominal muscles are meant to move out. Holding onto abdominal muscles is the single biggest reason why so many people breathe into the top 1/3 of their lungs rather than breathing deeply and are oxygen deprived. The only time abdominal muscles need to be engaged is for exercise, sport or art forms such as dance where extra support is needed. You will need them on the stability ball. At these times one should be actively breathing into the back lobes of the lungs. For most people this takes a lot of focus and may rather interfere with working effectively. I have been a voice teacher for 22 years and this is factual information. Strengthen your abdominal muscles of course- but don't engage them to sit at your computer or anywhere else- work on your spine and the supporting muscles to improve your posture. - 9/29/2009   6:34:39 PM
  • 133
    I think even a little healthy habit is useful as it tends to generate more healthy habits without much effort. - 9/29/2009   5:24:56 PM
  • 132
    My daughters like Hamburger Helper so I started adding in frozen vegetables. Then one of my daughters became a vegetarian, and now we actually substitute peas or beans for the meat--with or without another vegetable for more variety, i.e. peas and corn cheddar melt. I've substituted crystal light for my favorite addiction, coca-cola classic, and drink water during the day.

    I work in exercise when I can--little bits here and there, sometimes a run or a walk at lunch. I have karate classes in the evening, but I need more than just my classes to get off my plateau (57 lb down and about 30 more toward my eventual goal) so I have to "stealth" myself a bit. Life is just too busy not to work in what you can.

    I loved the article. - 9/29/2009   4:38:24 PM
  • 131
    I have been doing some of the 10 minute video's lately and that has been great.....at least when our interent is running well! - 9/29/2009   4:28:30 PM
  • 130
    Great article!

    Someone farther up in the comments, said they wished they can print this out....

    If you "copy" and "paste" into a word document, you can print as much or little as you want..... - 9/29/2009   4:26:49 PM
  • PERTPERKY
    129
    I totally agree that these techniques can make for big changes. A couple of years ago I switched to water because I ate out every day at lunch and didn't want the extra cost of a soda. Now I no longer drink any sweet drinks such as diet soda or lemonade and I even find margaritas too sweet. After "denying" myself sweets for about a year I find that they aren't even appealing anymore. I was so glad to see that using sugar-free substitues or low fat substitutes wasn't highly touted in the article. I would be curious to know if using "sugar-free" or "lowfat" has helped anybody change their eating habits. The benefits of eating the less processed foods and fresh foods needs to get more support than it does. The one reason I left Weight Watchers is that they always recommended the low fat this and sugar free that. If that was truly the way to lose weight then why is there such a problem with obesity in this country? - 9/29/2009   4:18:13 PM
  • 128
    I love using my stability ball as my desk chair. It makes a big difference for me. I also know people who work in offices that do it as well. I don't have any problem incorporating nutritious foods into my diet (I LOVE fruits and vegetables), but I need to incorporate the small steps of exercising to get back into it. I like many of the tips in the article as well as the tips given by the readers. Thanks! - 9/29/2009   4:12:47 PM
  • 127
    How about this one for the people who do homemade pizza:
    I started using fat free cheese as my base layer (instead of part skim). I am not a fatty meat fan anyway, but I also found that seafood makes a great pizza topping. I buy a few scallops or a few shrimp at the grocery store when we are doing our pizza night (every Fri). Then I top with my green peppers and mushrooms and toss a little bit of real cheese on top. It saves about 50% of the cheese calories that were there before, but I can't taste the difference because there's a little real cheese on top. Plus, for all of those who like to make bread, I have found that adding fiber to the recipe actually doesn't affect the taste or the way it rises (at sea level, anyway) and it makes your rolls or loaves a little more nutritious. I generally add a tsp per serving, myself, to all recipes (including pizza dough).

    I totally believe in stealth health (if that's what it's being called now) and it makes a huge difference if you are putting in place other healthy lifestyle actions. Every small thing can add up and you do have to learn to look at the bigger picture as long as you don't throw yourself off track by relying on the stealth health changes. After all, there are studies that suggest that those of us who fidget when we sit burn more calories in a day, however you can't rely of fidgeting to lose 30 pounds. - 9/29/2009   4:08:39 PM
  • 126
    This is great! I already sit on a stability ball at work, which has been helping with the posture. Every 15-30 minutes I have a reminder set on my Outlook to do pushups, and another to do crunches. I do incline pushups right here in my little cube on my desk, and the crunches on my ball. Sometimes, I will do calf raises at my desk as well as jumping jacks in the bathroom on potty breaks. O.o I have a mini stair stepper at home to work out on while doing dishes, cooking, or watching tv. I have a co-worker with kidney stones, and his doctor tells him to drink at least one cup of water an hour, so we have a competition everyday..."That's 4..." or whatever number glass we are on...I walk on my lunch break most days. Its the small things that count! - 9/29/2009   3:52:14 PM
  • 125
    I've started making sure my belly is sucked in when I'm walking from my car to work, and then while I'm walking up and down the unit all day (I'm a nurse). I also park at the far side of the parking ramp from the stairs so I have to walk a little bit farther that way too. Every day I work my walk to and from the car is about 15 minutes, not counting the stairs, which is 15 minutes I wouldn't have otherwise. - 9/29/2009   3:09:48 PM
  • SHOCKING1
    124
    Your last comments are SO right. I felt overwhelmed because of my poor health and the very thought of major changes was too much. So I started with my attitude, encouraged by various Spark People articles and such I began small changes that are making a big difference. Weight loss is not a one-size-fit-all endeavor - keep up your good info so I can make choices that help me. - 9/29/2009   3:06:38 PM
  • 123
    I add frozen veggies to every frozen entree that I fix. I can add 1-2 cups and still have plenty of sauce, and it's much more filling. - 9/29/2009   2:07:35 PM

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