Many of us feel that working out is something that we have to “fit” into our busy day—whether it’s first-thing in the morning, during a lunch break at work or at the tail-end of your day. This mentality can unfortunately make something that we should be looking forward to something that we come to dread.
Another factor that comes into play is the reason why we’re exercising. As Bill Daniels, C.S.C.S., C.P.T., founder of Beyond Fitness points out, when we decide to exercise, it’s usually because we are trying to improve a certain area of our life, whether it’s physical shape, athletic ability, mood or self-esteem. “People are often connecting exercise with a negative emotion, which makes it less likely that they will actually carry out that activity,” he says.
The reality is that exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only does it help stave off disease and help us maintain a fighting immune system, but it also keeps our mentalities in check and has been shown to improve conditions such as anxiety and depression, per research published in Clinical Psychology Review.
The trick to incorporating exercise without it feeling like something we have to do is to engage in activities that count as a workout. “Rather than looking at fitness and activity as a cure to disease we should shift the lens to seeing inactivity and being sedentary as the cause of most diseases,” says certified nutrition consultant and health and wellness coach Marvin Nixon, M.S., N.B.C.-H.W.C., C.P.T. “The solution to being sedentary is activity, whether purposeful exercise or just not being on the couch for extended periods.”
Here, exercise pros share some of the tasks that you probably perform every single day that can count as a workout.
Considered by many to be one of the most mundane tasks that you do probably once a week can actually help you burn calories and build muscle—if you do it the right way. For starters, you can walk to the grocery store instead of driving, assuming that it’s within a handful of miles away from your home. “Walking burns calories and is good cardiovascular exercise—plus you will only buy the foods you can carry, so you will stick to the best foods,” says Jordan Hosbein, NASM-certified personal trainer and owner of Iron and Grit. “You’ll also burn extra calories from carrying your groceries back home.”
Walking your dog
If you’re a dog owner, you know the importance of taking your pup on a walk at least a few times a day to go to the bathroom. This serves as an excellent exercise opportunity for you too! To boost your heart rate and get even more out of your daily dog walks, Hosbein recommends walking (or running) hills.
Instead of doing your errance by car, Hosbein recommends riding your bike. “Even a leisurely bike ride through town or a nature trail is good exercise that also serves as an enjoyable change of scenery,” he says. “If you have to mail a letter, ride your bike to the post office.”
Another great place to ride your bike if it’s within 10 or so miles is to work, which can serve as a great source of cardio both to and from. “If there are hills, this requires you to work in different heart rate zones which is great cardiovascularly to target your heart rate,” says Brooke Taylor, personal trainer and creator of the Brooke Taylor Fit App. “This will keep your heart happy, endorphin fix and enable you to get movement daily.”
Catching up with friends or family
Instead of calling your friends or family to catch up while you’re lying on the couch, consider taking your conversation outside for a long, leisurely walk. “Though walking is slow steady-state cardio it still raises the heart rate above the resting and is base building for other cardio that you might progress to later,” says Nixon. “For an exerciser who already takes part in more moderate or intense exercise some days of the week walking is good movement and regenerative at the same time allowing your body to prepare for the next bout of more intense movement.”
Getting on the ground and in the dirt are great ways to impact your health and fitness, according to Daniels. “For one thing, being in a crawling position is fantastic for core engagement. It forces your abs and low back muscles to stabilize your body while you dig or pull weeds,” he says. “And when you use tools like a shovel, you are now adding additional load to your movements which is similar to weightlifting.”
Laundry might be considered a chore in your day-to-day life, but it can also serve as a workout.
Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer, recommends doing 10 squats every time you put a handful of clothes in the washer, and then again when you put those clothes in the dryer. “Hold the clothes and open your feet into a squat position as wide as your shoulders and then bend your knees and reach your glutes back as if you’re sitting into a chair,” she says.
Press down through your heels to stand back up!”
Chasing after your kids
Raising kids isn’t only mentally tiring, but physically too—and that’s because you’re lifting them up, carrying them around and chasing them all over the place. If you spent a hard-earned day playing with your children, but didn’t get a technical “workout” in, rest assured, you probably burned all the calories you needed to!