Too busy to work out? We totally feel you. Between working, taking care of family, socializing, preparing meals, and even relaxing, it can feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to squeeze in a full workout. However, no need to despair or beat yourself up! Did you know that tons of the everyday activities you’re already doing can actually help burn calories and act as workout substitutes? It’s true! With just a few tweaks, your everyday routine can be a stealth workout.
Here, we’ll measure the impact of these sneaky workouts in estimated calorie burn, but remember that calorie burn absolutely does not need to be the focus or the metric by which you measure your fitness progress. It can simply be a helpful way to understand the impact a movement has on your body, so that’s what we’ll use here.
A calorie is simply a unit of energy, so that’s why everything we do burns calories – including breathing and sleeping. That’s why things like chores and dancing to your favorite song while your pasta water boils can be surprising moments of fitness! You don’t have to commit to long workouts to still get in a great burn. Check out these everyday activities that are already burning calories, and learn simple new ways to amp them up even more.
If you’re cooking or baking, guess what? All of that dicing and mixing tones your shoulders and forearms because it requires a lot of micromovements that target the small muscles. Bonus points for mixing by hand instead of using an electric mixer or for hand-chopping your ingredients, ditching the food processor and pre-cut vegetables. Besides, just standing on your feet while you cook is beneficial for your body: your muscles stretch, and standing upright is a great way to combat any tension from sitting at your desk or in the car.
Cleaning after baking counts, too: 30 minutes of washing dishes by hand and wiping down countertops can burn 77 calories (estimate based on a weight of 170 lbs) If you prefer using the dishwasher instead, load plates and utensils one by one, squat rather than bend as you place them, and rise up slowly – this way, you quickly activate your legs and glutes (and have the reward of a spotlessly clean kitchen).
Working in the yard is a wonderful way to exercise, and you can even work up to a pretty moderate to high intensity with certain activities like raking leaves or shoveling snow. If you’re a gardener, you’re in luck as your hobby not only ensures that you’re getting a lot of fresh air (which is essential in maintaining healthy brain function) but also working out.
Forking and weeding count as an upper-body workout that tones up your arms and abs, while digging and shoveling shape up your thighs and calves. Using an old-fashioned push mower raises your heart rate, strengthening your heart long-term, and helping to protect it from diseases.
Getting to burn calories, enjoy being outdoors, and walk away with fresh produce or flowers? Gardening really gives you a serious bang for your buck!
Hit the Playground
It’s not just for kids! Getting outside and playing with your kids is fun, entertaining, and beneficial for everyone involved. Having an active adult as a role model helps kids understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and sets a great example! It also can burn up to an estimated 155 calories in 30 minutes, but that’s not even the best part. A simple game of tag or some one-on-one catch develops your kids’ movement skills, flexibility, and coordination.
All physical activity has these benefits. Piggyback rides, lifting your kids in an airplane, and running around are all great bonding experiences that just happen to be super fun! Of course, make sure you’re playing in a safe place and not right before bed, or you’ll be in for a tougher bedtime routine. If you get a little messy, who cares?! There will be so much laughter, you’ll easily forget you’re an adult and start acting like a kid yourself, rediscovering the joy of play again.
Get Your Clean On
Alright, nothing’s going to make it fun or exciting, but hear us out. Have you ever broken out in a sweat while cleaning? Us too! That’s because household chores burn calories using the same squats, swings, and bends you do in a workout. Basically, you’re getting a two-for-one deal: a full-body workout and a nice and shiny space!
Dusting and scrubbing the bathtub can shape up arms, shoulders, and chest while vacuuming and mopping fire up the lower body (leg day, anyone?). So next time, think about cleaning as a workout with added benefits, pop on some energizing music, and (maybe) it’ll be less boring and fly by!
Wash, Fold, Burn
Again, doing laundry is hardly the definition of “fun,: but you’ll be happy to hear that loading and unloading the washing machine, ironing, and putting away clothes are indeed a part of your fitness routine! An hour of ironing burns an estimated 155 calories, the same amount that 25 minutes of stationary bike riding does.
For better results, add squats and lunges as you load and unload the machine. Make it fun! At the ironing board, stand up straight, engage your core and change hands from time to time (but be careful with your non-dominant hand – make sure calories are the only thing you burn!).
Humans are actually designed to move, and so are our pooches! If you have an active dog, you probably know how physically exhausting (but oh so entertaining!) a walk can be. It’s a great morning activity that gives you energy, cleans your lungs, and clears your mind, but most importantly, brings so much pleasure to your furry family member! Watching your pup running in circles, chasing birds, and doing some fundamental sniff-tests is the best stress reliever. And if you let your little personal trainer pull the leash and rush forward, you can even burn an estimated 116 calories in 30 minutes. What a nice way to start and end your day, right?
Shop Til You Drop
From groceries to holiday gifts, shopping is a necessary part of our lives. It’s also gratifying, and a little “retail therapy” is a real thing that can help battle depression. You know that hunting for bargains can lift your mood, but did you know that it also can tone your body? Turns out those older folks walking circles through the mall were on to something! (No joke, that is a great, safe, activity!)
All the moving from shelf to shelf counts as a cardio exercise, which is beneficial for your heart and burns calories like no big deal. So, consider this a permission slip to shop till you drop!
Remember how your teacher told you to sit still and not to fidget in your chair? Well, they might have been mistaken – studies show that fidgeting is beneficial both for kids and grown-ups! These tiny movements make a big difference, especially if you’re working a sedentary job.
Tapping your toes, spinning pencils in your hand, bouncing legs up and down – these can seem distracting, but they actually relieve stress and help you focus on your task. Prolonged sitting can cause harm to your veins and arteries, but if you start fidgeting your legs under your desk, you may maintain a healthy blood flow and avoid the unpleasant consequences.
Plus, your body burns 29 to 38% more calories while fidgeting (sitting or standing) – not enough to skip your daily workout, but still! So if you’re still not a fidgeter, try to incorporate this small activity into your daily routine; it goes a long way.
They say laughter is the best medicine, and while it may not be entirely true in every situation, chuckles and grins do make a powerful impact on your mental health. Telling jokes and laughing together establishes a strong connection between you and other people, strengthening your relationships. It triggers the release of endorphins, boosting your mood and relaxing the whole body.
But there’s more – you actually can burn additional calories with a hearty laugh and activate your abdominal muscles! Whether you get your giggle fix by watching YouTube videos, sharing memes with friends, or tickling your kiddos, bring more laughter into your life. You’re gonna love the outcome.
So goodbye, gym?
Well, the short answer is no. All these activities can add to your existing routine, but the more you move, the better your body and mind will feel. Thankfully, you don’t have to go to the gym for hours on end – there are plenty of great at-home workouts you can do today, starting from with only 5-minutes! No stress, no obligation, no burden – only fun, smiling and feeling awesome.
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