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Daily Activity is Exercise

Valerie Latona


Ask people the #1 reason why they don’t work out—and the answer is pretty much always: “I don’t have time.” But what most people don’t realize is that just the physical act of moving—daily activity—counts as exercise, too.


One woman I know was lamenting to me about this very same thing: she worked long hours in an office and just couldn’t find the energy or time to make it to the gym. But what I found out was she walked her dog every morning before work and every evening when she got home—but in her mind, because she wasn’t at the gym, those walks didn’t count as exercise. But they absolutely do. The universal recommendation is 30 minutes of activity every day: doing a 10-minute walk with your dog in the morning and a 10-minute walk at night counts…and the best part: you’re already more than halfway at your daily goal!


With that said, here’s a rundown of daily activities that people do on a regular basis that count as exercise; the more you do them, the more of a workout you’re getting. (This is the theory, by the way, behind all the new “smart” watches and straps that are coming onto the market now; they track your daily activity so you can see just how much you’ve really done.)


Cleaning—indoors or out: Cleaning typically burns anywhere from 100 to 300 calories1 an hour, depending on what you’re doing and how strenuous it is. Dusting and light cleaning burns fewer calories (about 100 an hour) than, say, vacuuming, washing your car, and/or scrubbing floors/windows (which burn anywhere from 200 to 300 calories an hour). But many people—me included—find cleaning mentally therapeutic and helps us feel in control of our lives…so even if you’re not burning a lot of calories, you are moving and reducing stress at the same time.

Try to plan your cleaning, though, so you have to constantly keep moving: For example, clean one window on the inside then run outdoors to do the outside of that window. Then run back inside to clean another window—and so on. Another tip: see if you can switch arms frequently while you’re cleaning; that way, both sides of your body are getting a workout.


Gardening/yard work: Raking those leaves leftover from last fall can burn about 235 calories an hour, while getting out and mowing the lawn can blast up to 325 calories an hour. But just gardening—weeding, digging, and planting—are repetitive tasks that help build, and stretch, muscles. They can also burn calories (about 280 calories an hour). But just the sights, smells, and sounds of an outdoor garden can help relieve stress and boost your mood, too. (Not to mention, you’re able to reap your harvest.) All around, gardening is a win-win activity.


Going up and down stairs: So many of us are quick to go to the gym to use the Stair climber when we’ve often got our own “Stair climbers” right in our homes or apartment buildings. Going up and down stairs, at a moderate pace, can burn up to 500 calories an hour. Now, no one that I know is going to be walking up and down their stairs for a whole hour straight…but, think about how many times you go up and down the stairs throughout an entire day, and it might just total up to an hour.

One tip I learned—and have put into practice—recently: Don’t leave things to pile up at the bottom of the stairs; take individual items upstairs as soon as you need to and you’ll find yourself adding in more exercise. And if you want to try challenging yourself: make it a point to do a few lunges off the bottom step each time you reach it.


Playing with your kids/grandkids: Head to the nearest park, jungle gym or playground with your kids—or just get active in the backyard. Kick a soccer ball, play Frisbee, jump rope, set up a backyard net for badminton, or go for a walk or bike ride. You’ll burn calories (anywhere from 100 to 500 calories an hour), have fun, and be spending quality time with your kids/grandkids. (Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be an organized gym activity.)

Walking to/from your car: Park your car further from the entrance to the mall or grocery store—and you’ll burn some extra calories walking to and from the entrance. (Some people even like to walk around their office parking lot on their lunch hour if there are no walking trails or sidewalks nearby.) And keep in mind that mall walking is a good workout, too (walking at a moderate pace burns about 287 calories per hour); most malls open their doors early, before the stores open, to allow for just this activity. Something else to keep in mind: rather than parking your grocery cart next to your car after unloading it, return it to the store. Every little bit of movement counts!

Walking your dog: As I mentioned earlier about my friend, dog walking is a super effective aerobic activity (you can burn about 287 calories an hour). In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine2, found that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week—nearly double the 168 minutes of walking that people without dogs typically do!

Remember: the goal is to just move as often as you can. If you find yourself sitting at a computer all day, then set the alarm on your computer so you have to get up and walk around for at least 5 minutes every hour. Not only will it get you moving, it will clear your mind, too.

Be well, and stay fit!

1The amount of calories you burn depends on how much you weigh—and how strenuous your workout.

2“Relationships Among Dog Ownership and Leisure-Time Walking in Western Canadian Adults”; Shane G. Brown, BEd, Ryan E. Rhodes, PhD; American Journal of Preventive Medicine; February 2006, Volume 30, Issue 2; 131-136.

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