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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Excellent ideas. We also believe that even the smallest efforts will make a difference in the long run. Many small drops can end up raining a storm. Report
i think i'll try some of these ideas Report
This approach worked for me. I started small, then built up from there. Now I've lost the weight, my lifestyle is far more healthy and I've stuck with it for over a year and half now. Great ideas in the this blog - thanks! Report
I already add fruit to ice cream and yogurt. Adding it to pancakes and broccoli to frozen meals is a good idea. Report
small steps works for me. i'd love to have a stability ball at work,,,,,,, but, i'd probably get hurt! better to save that one for home. =) Report
Some great, "sneaky" ideas here! Never thought to work on my posture and core while sitting in front of the computer! Thank you-- I'm strengthening my abs as I type this! :-))) Report
A great article--this is the way to build habits, then enlarge them. I found the posture reminders particularly apropos, as well as the pedometer. I ordered mine! Report
What are people like you Evie? So youre already doing things mentioned in the article. Add more steps. I've been dieting (& losing) for over a year, and can always add 10 more minutes past exhaustion or etc. I love the concept, and believe it works for the majority. Report
Baby steps are a great way to start a long journey. We all know this is a process not just a few "events" like losing 10, 50, or 100 pounds. The journey doesn't end because we hit a magic number, the scenery changes a bit (more clothing choices, more activity options, yee hah!).

As a few members pointed out, baby steps aren't going to result in large weight loss but they sure help lay a foundation for more robust steps and for future maintenance. Something beats nothing and forward momentum can always speed up (2 minutes dancing today can help you do 3 minutes tomorrow, 10 minutes next week, and 45 minutes next month). Persistence and patience are key to the self-discipline that enables you to metamorphosize into what you want. Report
great info for all of us! Thanks! Report
I love this article! I didn't get in my unhealthy situation over night. It took a long time. I realize I won't get back in shape, in a healthy way, over night. I have begun taking these small habits -- making them into streaks -- (thank you, Spark Guy) until I'm ready to add another habit to my lifestyle. First streak...at least 10 flights of stairs a day. Second streak...at least 20 minutes of cardio a day. My Third streak will be at least 30 minutes of strength training. I will be adding several of these fantastic tips to my daily living. Thanks! Report
With all due respect, I think Dr. Siegal is all wet in his approach. It is well known that successfully accomplishing small tasks leads to greater likelihood of meeting larger goals - this is simple human psychology. It is very empowering for people to feel that they are doing something for their health and usually leads to additional steps in that direction. There's an old saying that "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and I think it applies here! Report
Some if these suggestions are so simple. I'm going to try a few myself.
Last month I started parking 1/2 block on the other side of the parking lot from the entrance to my office. I have already seen an increase in my average daily steps.

I have always used 1/2 oats to 1/2 pancake mix in my batter. Plus I add a whole purred banana and the whole family is getting these nutrients without really noticing the difference. Report
As I was reading SparkPeople this morning, I came across this older blog entry by Coach Nicole. It was just what I needed to read at the beginning of the new year as I prepare for some fairly lofty fitness and professional goals this year. The additional ideas in the comment section from PKLOSH were right on as well. Here's to a stealthily healthy 2011 for all! Report
Thanks, those are some really great ideas. Even though I might have already known about some of them before this article has motivated me to start incorporating them into my lifestyle because they are so easy to do. Report
This summer at a playdate, I picked up a hula hoop and tried to hula. It took me quite a few tries, but I managed to keep it up for a minute or so. It was actually a fun workout...it gave me a great idea! I bought one for myself!
I leave it behind a chair in my living room and now when I'm watching one of my shows, I'll pull it out and hula hoop the show away. I've gotten pretty good at it now and can keep it going for a good 10-15 mins straight. Sometimes that's the only exercise I get that day, but at least it's something!! Try it and don't give up, you can do it with some practice!! Report
Here are the stealth tactics that really DO work, from someone who has used them to good effect:

1. Add fiber to your diet: Apples, pears, brewer's yeast, flax meal, and so on. Among other things, the fiber absorbs a few calories and passes them through your system. Also, with high-fiber diets, portion control is much less of an issue (high fiber foods often have volume but few calories)
2. Drink 4+ cups of green tea or white tea daily -- the catechins help metabolize belly fat
3. Make a pedometer your primary piece of fitness equipment, so that you have a baseline of activity and a daily target. Unless you've sharply restricted your calories, it's hard to lose weight on fewer than 12,000 steps a day
4. Supplement major workouts with minor exercise sessions throughout the day: Walks, crunches, etc.
5. Walk in place: No need for equipment here, you can do this in front of the TV without inconvenience or noise
6. Prepare your own meals: Skip the processed crap and the high-calorie restaurant meals, and weight loss may be simpler than you think
7. Add unprocessed, unflavored cocoa and sprouts to smoothies. The cocoa contains powerful antioxidants and fiber, and most sprouts are high in protein, vitamin C, and fiber Report
oh yes this is how it should be done . start off one step at a time untill you have done the complete transformation , you will be 100% fit ,healthy and in better shape Report
This Dr. Siegal is the definition of what is wrong with so many doctors today. He is completely out of touch with the reality that is faced by so many people who are overweight and out of shape. He, I'm sure, would rather just have his patients have gastric bypass and be done with it, then he doesn't have to do the work involved with coaching them (or finding someone to coach them) through the lifestyle changes that will permanently alter and improve their lives. I am disgusted with the attitude of so many medical professionals that say "you'll never be able to do this on your own." And there are many out there.

On the flip side, I LOVE this article. It approaches the journey to health with baby steps, and anyone who has ever read anything I've ever written on SP knows I am a huge believer in baby steps. Because baby steps lead to giant leaps. Once you get rolling, the sky is the limit. It's not a diet, it's a way of sustaing yourself for the rest of your life. You aren't going to exercise until you lose the weight, you are going to exercise and be active for the rest of your life. Thank you SP for showing so many of us the way, and giving us a place to learn, vent, celebrate and succeed. Report
Great article. I think I will keep it as one of my favorites also. I'm glad that people have advised that it really works. It's great motivation. Report
I really liked this article. Thanks! Report
am a BIG FAN of this approach I have planned and started the great exercise plan to lose 80 pounds for so long and everytime i start something comes up.
so i do it in small steps, i make healthier choices in the foods i eat eg. adding fruits to cereal wholegrain of course, choosing flavored water or water over juice, Green Tea instead of coffee (no sugar) if i need a little a sweet to it i add honey. walk more.
I still want to do the big thing you know exercise 30-60 minutes a day eat mostly veg and like a bird but its a lot to fit in esp. with work and family. Report
Great ideas, I drink at least 1 glass of water in the morning as soon as I get up. This leaves only 7 to go! Report
I've gotten results when I remember to do these things. One of my favorites is the old trick of parking far away from the store, school etc and walking in. Its amazing how that little bit adds up. Report
Here's a sneaky way to get more green leafy veggies. Next time you make a delicious smoothie, slip a couple of spinach leaves (frozen is best) in with all the fruit. You need a good machine (like a Vitamix), but you won't see or taste the spinach. Use the same method to blend some green veggies into sauces, expecially tomato sauce. This is great for finicky kids, including the adult kind. YUM. Report
something is always better than nothing. It doesn't have to be black & white. I'm gonna go drink a glass of water right now and eat a juicy, Fugi apple :D.
Thanks for a good article! Report
I think everyone should read these hints. There's something for everyone here. Thanks. Report
Totally agree!!!!!! Report
This is a helpful article! Some stuff I already knew, other stuff I had forgotten about and new stuff I learned! Report
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 Report
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... Report
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!!! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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* Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
Great article and hopefully just the motivation to get me loosing for October Report
This is a very good article and I am definitely going to try to do some of these tricks to activate myself more. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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!!! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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! Report