Fitness gadgets abound these days: mileage trackers, smart watches, wireless headphones. There’s no end to the wave of hi-tech tools flooding today’s fitness market. But what if you’re an avowed luddite? Or broke? Or both? What if you’ve already filled your basement with treadmills, stationary bikes and other workout machines that do nothing but collect dust?
There are plenty of ways to get a good workout without investing in the latest shiny offering. What follows are two strategies for staying fit that don’t depend on technology of any kind.
The first we’ll call the naturally fit approach, which focuses not on adding a fitness regimen to your life but merely making the best of daily opportunities to stay active.
If you work or live in a multistory building, take the stairs. Going down works different muscles than going up, by the way. If you own a home with an outdoor space, you’re in luck: spring’s just around the corner. Get out there and cut the grass with a manual, human-powered mower. Kneel down and get your hands dirty; you’ll stretch your lower back while you’re at it. Shovel some compost. Rake a few leaves. Fill two buckets with weeds, and lug one in each hand to the yard waste bin.
Maybe your kitchen is overdue for a remodel. Tiling, painting, plumbing—most remodeling-related activities engage your core, not to mention your forearms and biceps. If you’ve ever installed sheet rock or dragged a bundle of roofing shingles up a ladder, you know home projects recruit all kinds of muscles, especially those that never get used while staring at a computer.
But you live in an apartment, you say. No problem. Find a good cause, and donate your sweat. Urban greenbelts need invasive weeds like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry removed. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity need your muscle year-round, regardless of your carpentry skills.
The key with the naturally fit approach is to take advantage of everyday opportunities. Grandparents, chase after that grandkid. Dog owners, get your best friend out for two walks a day: one in the morning and one in the evening. Rain or shine. Urbanites within walking distance of a coffee shop, restaurant or record store, by all means, hit the sidewalk. You’ll burn calories while you save gas.
The second approach to staying fit without gadgets is aimed at those who want a fitness regimen without all the trappings. You want to build muscle, but you hate gyms, don’t want to clutter your house with fitness contraptions or are working with a tight space or budget.
Well, you might be surprised to learn that everyone has access to a yoga instructor these days. For free. Downward facing dog, reverse warrior, open triangle—every yoga pose imaginable has been demonstrated on YouTube. The same goes for Pilates, aerobics routines and Kegel exercises. If you don’t like your instructor, that’s okay. Twenty more are waiting to teach you. Just scroll down.
Old standbys like the common pushup belong to nearly every workout routine, even for bodybuilders with access to state-of-the-art weight rooms. In fact, those gurus on YouTube will show you a dozen different ways to safely do a pushup, including one or two that match your fitness level. They’ll show you how to tone your abs or your arms using only a chair. They’ll teach you how to strengthen your glutes courtesy of the nearest wall.
Think of it this way: if technology was necessary for fitness, we’d be the fittest society in history. But the opposite is true. We’d be wise to take a few cues from the earliest humans, who could run long distances and endure remarkable hardships without the aid of modern gadgets.
Matt Kite is an avid hiker and masters runner in Tacoma. Check out “3 Minute Hikes,” his hiking channel on YouTube.