10 Sneaky Ways to Get Fit and Healthy—Without Really Trying

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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Thank you! Report
CECELW 11/26/2020
practical tips for sure Report
Good ideas! Report
MNABOY 8/9/2020
Thanks for sharing Report
10 minutes a day...as often as possible throughout the day. Report
FITMARY 6/8/2020
"Just 10 Minutes" of exercise has bailed me out of a slump more than once! Every time I try to get out of exercising, I remind myself that I only have to do 10 minutes. I will almost always do more.... Report
Doing several of these but can always refresh and add more Report
Stealth health works well for me. In today's busy world if you wait for the perfect time to do it all at once nothing will happen. Big changes are fine for some things like moving into a new home or changing jobs. I disagree w/ Dr Siegal for something this involved I don't think we can absorb that much change all at once, at least not in any meaningful way. You need time to process & adjust to it.

I began my journey by tracking what I was eating & drinking more water, 8 glasses daily. Then I started increasing vegetable consumption to 3 a day & 2 fruits. Later I made sure at least half was raw 3 days a week & cut back my portions. I planned the next day's meals on my tracker using food on hand. That also meant trying a new recipe now & again. I cut back drinking alcohol (during NFL season just when my team had major issues too) but kept up w/ a strict 2 drink limit & tons of ice tea. A big one was saying no thanx to bread sticks, biscuits, rolls & chips when dining out.
Once I retired I added daily walking. I recently began doing upper arm exercises too but back problems have that on hiatus. I've lost weight, my labs have improved, and there are many of these things are now second nature. It's hard work to take off weight so I don't want to ever have to do it again. Report
I think the best thing about this approach is that it gives you hope! Trying to change everything at once is overwhelming, but one little thing at a time? I can do that. Great article! My favorite stealthy way to add something healthy are those steamable bags of frozen veggies, like broccoli, brussels sprouts, or asparagus. Every bit of one of those is taking the place of a bite of something starchy and fatty, right? Report
Thanks for the practical pointers! Report
Great suggestions. Some I already do and others I will try to incorporate into my day. Report
This was helpful. I'm going to try adding the frozen vegetables to bump up the volume and health of my inevitable frozen meals. Report
Great helpful ideas Report
Stealth health is an interesting concept, the article lists excellent tweaks we can make to improve our health. I fought my way to being fit in 10-15 increments when I earnestly began my journey to make lasting lifestyle changes. It is certainly true that something beats nothing every single time. The beauty of this concept is that encourages people to just begin to take steps and make changes that make sense to them. Amen. Baby steps can play a pivotal role in helping us move forward. I’m simply wary that the title states we can become fit and healthy without even trying, for nothing could be further from the truth. Report
Losing weight and being fit is great but keeping up is a huge challenge. Report
It's all about better health so thanks. Report
Another great blog! Thank you, Coach Nicole! Report
Looking forward to learning more about "Stealth Health". I love the Spark articles. I learn so much about geting fit and healthy. THANKS SO MUCH!!! Report
Well written article! I absolutely agree with all the points. I'm currently on my way to my goal weight, but I'm slowly getting there. The fact that I started to ride bike in my free time helped a lot in my opinion. Who would guess I'd start to love biking so much? I even started to "pimp" my own bike. For example with these cool stickers: https://bikersstickers.com/en/pages
/our-stickers.html Report
Great points thank you very much Report
Common sense points that we all knew deep down inside but then common sense ain't so common! Report
I like many of these ideas. Think I will try a few. Report
I like all the ideas except the wc one for someone with a hernia and prostate problems it feels like I have a switch in my bladder. Report
some of these I do, some I dont...a timely reminder! Report
Thanks for reminders Report
Great reminder that every single little thing I accomplish helps reach the end goal. Report
Something is better than nothing is my motto! Report
I've always been a fan of small, gradual improvement. My first run 30 years ago lasted 30 seconds, but I added 15 seconds at a time until I reached 30 minutes. Yeah, it took a long time, but so what.
That said, I think it's important to continue to improve either by adding a different small step to the routine or increasing what you are doing very slowly. Report
Safe & sane approach, though the "faster than a speeding bullet" couldn't be farther from the truth. This gets you on the right track, but, depending on just how over weight/unhealthy you are to start with, it might take years to see any results. I have found that to be very frustrating & it causes me to quit completely (for a few days or many months). I always start again, but after years & years of this approach, I feel defeated from the get-go.
I will say that, using this approach, has at least stopped me from gaining any more weight, but I haven't lost any weight in months.
I don't know how anyone has time to do it any other way! I HAVE to do my exercise in ten minute increments or it doesn't get done. Once a week if I need to I can do something longer. And small steps over the years have added up to new habits, some I don't even have to think about anymore. I do most of what this article says, including the post it note to sit up straight!

I started with portion control, substituting lower calorie alternatives, adding fruits and veggies, (I still measure any grains), moving on to whole and organic foods, making my own frozen dinners, and adding more and more weekly/daily goals and keeping up streaks.

I do short SP videos in the morning, take walks on my lunch and breaks, walk to run errands, even do stretches, knee raises, and leg lifts in the work restroom! I volunteer at work to fill up the copy paper, walk the mail to the post office, water the plants, or anything that gets me out of my chair.

Great ideas. I strongly disagree with Dr Seigel. Every act towards health is a success, regardless of where one is on the healthy lifestyle spectrum. Report
Dr Siegel is not doing anyone a favor. In fact, he may be discouraging folks from doing anything at all! The stealth approach may be the only way some (many?) of us will engage in the process. I agree with others who commented that as we progress with small lifestyle changes, we are likely to make more changes, possibly bigger ones. Adding more stealth ones is still progress. Unless a person truly incorporates healthy habits into daily life, and buys into the process, more-rapid weight loss is likely to result in eventual weight gain later on, as far as I can tell from my research. I am sure there are valid reasons medically for urgency at times, but for the vast majority of us, slow but steady wins the race. Nothing whatsoever is gained by scorning the stealth approach. Thanks for a great article.

And for those of us with mobility challenges, we can do chair marching and other chair exercises, starting with 10-minute bits, and work up to more. I find the Spark Activity Tracker to be invaluable. Report
I am a big fan of this concept. While you MUST have a long term goal in mind, I feel one of the easiest ways to reach long term goals is to conquer those smaller hurdles along the way: Go to bed earlier & get up ealier, get to the gym, take the stairs, etc. etc. Right now my biggest hurdle is getting up @ 4:30. Small goal this week: Out of bed by 4:50am! And I WILL conquer this hurdle in my journey & make it a habit. Report
You are 100% correct that over night changes are so overwhelming, giving up comes to mind far too quickly! Thankfully for me, my doctor and nurses started me with baby steps even though they knew I needed big changes fast. They told me simply start with little exercise each day, portion control and try cutting back on simple carbs, plus in watching my blood sugar levels, the doctor gave me a lot of leeway to begin. Thanks for sharing. Report
Perhaps if you have a serious physical condition, this approach could be discussed more throughly. Otherwise, most people like me, who have to lose pounds but have a good health, will surely benefit from this sensible approach. Big goals, huge changes are overwhelming and, in the end, discouraging! Report
gotta start somewhere and if it starts with steath health, go!
I think stealth health is a great way to start your healthy lifestyle choices. It seems to me, that it would be a good motivator to see your self make little accomplishments every day.

I recently started doing a minimum of one 10 minute workout video every morning. Even though I go over my calories daily the last few days, I know that in the last two month of being completely inactive, that ten minutes is a big step for me. Its been encouraging to know that even just a little physical activity is better than none at all. Especially when I use to as a tool for depression. No matter what, exercise makes me feel proud of my self and beautiful in my skin. Report
I think that stealth health is definitely a way to get started losing weight because small changes lead to bigger ones. If you start adding fruits to the sweet treats you like to eat you will just end up wanting the fruit. I crave strawberries all the time now because I made them my first choice when I wanted to eat candy. Report
Every little bit absolutely matters. This is how I have and am making major changes in my life. I started small with the 10 minutes a day in exercise and am now doing 60ish a day (never thought that would happen). I also started with tracking food and found it made me aware of how many calories I eat so I cut down and started keeping track. It is a building block. Report
Short story: used to be in great shape, have not been for several years, have a pretty good idea of good form and how to work out safely, cannot seem to get any motivation going to get back into a consistent routine.

And what Coach Michelle has described above seems like the only thing that is working for me (crossing fingers and toes). I've been convincing myself that it's ONLY 10 minutes, just do it and let it go.

Another thing that I've been using is a free app, "7-min workout." I'll be sitting there on the couch, watching TV and then I think, "just set that baby going and do it!" Having the minutes tick away makes it manageable for me.

I don't think this is the way to get into the best shape of my life but at this point, any thing that gets me moving at all is so very welcome! Report
I totally agree Coach Nicole. When I was younger, I would make drastic changes, lose the weight, but then not able to keep it off. Now that I'm older and the weight doesn't come off so easily (having prediabetes doesn't help matters), I found that doing too much, too soon set me up for failure. So now I'm doing small changes and getting used to them and then making more. Today it was deciding to have grapes along with our breakfast pizza. My daughter want it to be like a dessert so I got out some whipped topping. The great thing about grapes is they don't grab a lot of that topping so it keeps it overall healthy and Caley and I got a little bit of fruit in our diet. What Dr Siegal doesn't realize is that all or nothing mentality drives people to do nothing. I agree that something IS better than nothing. I love your 10 minute workouts! It's something I can do and be proud of and if I end up doing more that day, great, but if not, at least I can say I did something. I'm also getting up a few times a day at work to move around so I'm breaking up the sedentary part of my job. I believe it helps. I know I will need to do more to get the weight off, but at least for now, I'm doing something that does help. My blood pressure which was in the normal range, but was starting to go up to the borderline normal has now been lowered. I'm hoping eventually these changes will get my blood sugar under control. So I'm at least getting good on the tests with the exception of my prediabetes. Report
small steps lead to bigger steps.Small changes lead to more changes.Eventually they become routine and you are transformed into a healthier person. Report
I would say that most of us tried the radical changes approach and eventually crashed and burned. I can't even name how many times my friends and I have done the change everything, reach a goal, gain it back, plus 10. THAT doesn't seem to work. The stealth approach seems to be working, though it is slower to see the results, it isn't as hard to do and I sense that I won't give up as quickly. Report
I agree with article. Many people feel overwhelmed with all they should do when starting a new lifestyle and breaking it down into little parts may just be the key to success. Report
Great article, and I love these suggestions. I always say any exercise is better than no exercise. I've found that the more good things I do for myself, the more good things I *want* to do. For me, good habits grow and multiply with consistency. Report
Without this approach, I firmly believe I would not be 22 pounds lighter right now. I call it 'baby steps'. Doing one change at a time until you have successfully changed your lifestyle. 5 months into Spark people and those steps have paid off. I disagree that the small steps don't count. I now walk 2-3 miles a day and exercise at least 30 minutes each day. That would not have happened if I had started out trying to achieve this level at the beginning of my WL efforts. The 10 minutes a day really made me feel like I accomplished something every day.

Slow and steady will win this race. Report
In defense of the doctor, I don't think he's suggesting small changes are useless. These small changes are a place to start. If you're really unhealthy, exercising ten minutes a day for the rest of your life and adding fruit or vegetables to meals is not going to make much of an impact. But, once you've started exercising, your body gets more capable and you find you can exercise for fifteen or twenty minutes, then thirty minutes, and then maybe at some point down the road you're running a 5K. For those folks for whom walking around the block is a struggle, those first few steps have to be small. But they're just a starting point to a healthier, fitter life. Report
I liked this article very much and I think any changes you make to better your health are good and small changes over time can have great results. Thanks for sharing this. Report
to get more in at work i walk to ask questions which sometimes gets me in trouble but it gets me moving instead of sitting all day Report