10 Everyday Activities That Count as a Workout, According to Experts

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It’s a classic dilemma: We need a certain amount of exercise each week, but most of us have trouble motivating ourselves to actually do it. Only 23% of US adults meet all of the guidelines for weekly exercise, per the , even though studies have found that people do . 

So what gives? There are a lot of reasons that people don’t exercise more. You may be short on time or energy, or you may not have the equipment that you feel like you need.

But while you might imagine , sports bras and when you think of “exercise,” you don’t have to to meet the CDC’s guidelines for physical activity. In fact, the CDC’s 2018 National Health Statistics report, which contains that 23% statistic, doesn’t mention the word “exercise” once. Instead, it’s all about physical activity and movement — whether for work, play or by doctor’s orders.

For most of human history, physical activity was incorporated into people’s daily lives in the form of labor and chores. These days, people spend a lot more time sitting still on couches, desk chairs and cars. But our lives still require physical movement each day, and it can be easier to meet your daily exercise quota with activities that you need to do anyway (like mowing the lawn) than set aside extra time to do a dedicated workout. 

Rethinking your idea of exercise might inspire you to get even more active – and you’re not necessarily missing out if you skip the gym in favor of sweeping. Here’s what to know.

Person walks bulldog while carrying a paper bag and skateboard.

supersizer/Getty Images

Can daily activities really count as exercise?

Short answer: Yes. “Your body can’t tell the difference between bending over to pull out a weed and bending down to pick up a kettlebell,” explains , a personal trainer and world champion powerlifter.

Experts divide exercise into two categories: formal exercise and informal exercise. According to Mike Murphy, owner and head physiotherapist of Ireland’s clinic, most people don’t see informal exercise as, well, actual exercise. “This may be because informal exercise is difficult to quantify — one hour walking seems easier to quantify than cleaning the house. But the reality is that many everyday tasks use up far more energy than light exercise,” Murphy said.

“Everyday walking up and down stairs, to the shops, carrying things, hanging clothes out to dry, etc. — all of these activities build up and over weeks and months these can significantly influence our energy balance (contributing significantly to weight gain or weight loss),” he continued.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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