Want an excuse to skip your workout? You don’t have to look very far — Netflix, trivia night at the bar, a birthday party or just the couch. Indeed, one of the biggest reasons people give for not exercising is simply not having enough time. We have stuff to do, and who wants to give up doing something interesting and fun to slog away on the elliptical? But with a little creative thinking, you can do all of the above and still get your workout in at the same time. (OK, maybe not the couch.)
Multitasking has been getting a bad rap lately, but the truth is, it’s just a fact of modern life. Many of us listen to audiobooks during our commute or catch up on our shows and laundry at the same time. So perhaps it’s time to make our workouts work double duty too.
1. Memorization + weightlifting
Got a lot of facts to memorize for an upcoming presentation? Time to retake your driver’s test? Doing a workout four hours after you’ve learned something new can help cement it in your brain, according to a new study published in Cell. The trick is to take a break between your mental workout and your physical one. While that may sound like the opposite of multitasking, it’s really like getting a second memory boost free. You don’t even have to rehearse the information while you exercise — the exercise alone will improve both your memory and memory traces, helping you retain and remember the facts you learned earlier.
2. Another language + yoga
Gentle exercise can make your brain more amenable to soaking up language, according to Finnish researchers. Turn on a language lesson, or simply listen to music in a foreign language, and you can stretch your mind along with your hamstrings.
3. Netflix docus + treadmill
Bingeing on Netflix while walking or running on the treadmill is a time-honored tradition at this point. But if you’re interested in learning something new, then skip the soaps, and turn on a documentary. With Netflix’s insanely huge archive of documentaries, you can be sure to find something interesting, educational and entertaining.
4. Party + pole dancing
Parties and poles go together like, well, pole dancing. But for your next big girls’ night out, try skipping happy hour and instead learning a new physical skill. If pole dancing’s not your speed, you can try rock climbing, folk dancing or an aerial silks class. Bonus: Your stories — and snaps on social media — will be way funnier than if you just hit up a restaurant.
5. Audio tour + running outside
Love tours? Love running? Detour is an app that provides location-aware audio tours told by the locals themselves. So as you run through a new city or your hometown, the app will give you a running (ha!) narration about the buildings, landscape and history. You’ll get your miles in and get a better appreciation for your surroundings. Plus, exercising outside will help you retain the information better than if you were just sitting and listening, according to a Harvard study.
6. Working memory + Zumba
A lot of us have trouble focusing these days, but one way to teach your brain to snap to attention is to dance. The physical activity helps improve your focus, and practicing choreography can sharpen your working memory, helping you to think faster on your feet, according to a separate Harvard study.
7. Trivia + intervals
Exercise not only helps you build a sharper memory and retain the information longer, but it can also help you recall it faster when you need it, according to the Cell study. Use this to your advantage by practicing your trivia skills between doing short bursts of exercise. Answer a question, do 10 pushups. Answer another, do five burpees. Your friends will be impressed by both your muscles and your knowledge of obscure 17th century shipwrecks!