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Hate Exercising? Denise Austin’s ‘Fidget-cises’ Make Fitness Easy (and Fun)

Work out anywhere, anytime with these sneaky micro moves.


Keeping your muscles toned works miracles for your metabolism, which is just one reason why strength training exercises are so important. That said, muscles don’t know if you’re in a fancy gym or in your kitchen, and there are lots of great ways to sneak in more calorie-burning exercises throughout the day. For example, keep a pair of 3 or 5 pound weights at your desk, and do lifts while you are talking on the phone, in between meetings, and so on. A minute here and there really adds up, and studies have shown that you can burn up to 500 extra calories a day just by fidgeting. A report in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found that tapping your fingers or jiggling your leg ups calorie burn by 30 percent.

That’s why Denise Austin believes in what she calls “fidget-cising,” or performing micro movements throughout the day. She does them all the time — while waiting in line at the store, sitting in traffic, or cooking dinner. The following do-anytime moves are some of Denise’s favorite ways to fidget-cise. “Whenever you have a spare minute, take advantage of it,” Denise says. “Simple fitness hacks make a big difference. It’s all about multitasking. Turn idle time into toning time!”

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Tummy Tightener

Exhale as you tuck in your tummy and contract your abdominal muscles as hard as you can. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, then inhale as you release. Repeat, contracting and relaxing for 1 minute. Denise likes to do this fidget-cise in her car.

Stair Skip

To get a firm bottom when you’re walking up stairs, always skip a step — you’ll feel it more in your rear end. And remember to squeeze your buttocks!

Seated Leg Lifts

During the work day, when sitting at your desk in a chair, extend one leg — foot flexed — up as high as possible. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Lower. Repeat for 1 minute to tone your thighs.

Calf Raises

Stand up straight, holding the kitchen counter or grocery cart, with your feet hip-width apart. Raise onto your tiptoes, hold, and lower. Repeat for 1 minute to shape calf muscles.

Swinging Arm Backs

Extend your arms straight behind you, keeping your elbows close into your body and palms facing the ceiling; hold the pose for 1 to 2 seconds. Release and repeat for a total of 1 minute.

Backward Leg Lifts

Facing the kitchen counter, lift your leg straight out behind you; hold the pose for 1 to 2 seconds, then lower. Repeat on your other leg. Continue for 1 minute to tone your hamstrings.

Counter Push-up

Lean against the kitchen counter with your hands shoulder-width apart, keeping your feet behind you. Lower your chest like you’re doing a push-up. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Invisible Butt Squeeze

Squeeze your buttocks together for 5 seconds, then release. (This is equal to 1 squat.) Continue squeezing and releasing for 1 minute. Denise also likes to do real squats while she blow dries her hair.

Anywhere Hula Hoops

Pretend to hula-hoop for your waistline — it helps get circulation going and works the muscles of the entire torso. Play great music and have fun with it!

Bonus Burn

You can even burn calories with fidget-cise while sitting on the couch. Work your muscles without ever getting up from the sofa: Circle your arms in one direction, then the other, and pedal your legs as if you were riding a bicycle. You can also do dips by putting your hands on the couch and lowering your butt toward the floor. Get creative! Everything you do counts when it comes to burning calories.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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