You Can Skip The Gym With These 10 Daily Activities That Count As A Workout

It’s a classic dilemma: we need a certain amount of exercise each week, but most of us struggle to motivate ourselves to do so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 23% of American adults meet all weekly exercise guidelines, even though studies have shown that people understand the health benefits of exercise.

So what gives? There are lots of reasons why people don’t exercise more. You may be short on time or energy, or you may not have the equipment you think you need.

But while you might imagine sneakerssports bras and weight benches when you think of “exercise”, you don’t think have at go to the gym to meet CDC guidelines for physical activity. In fact, the CDC’s 2018 National Health Statistics report, which contains this 23% statistic, doesn’t even mention the word “exercise” once. Instead, it’s about physical activity and movement, whether for work, play, or on doctor’s orders.

For most of human history, physical activity has been incorporated into people’s daily lives in the form of work and chores. Nowadays, people spend a lot more time sitting on sofas, office chairs and cars. But our lives still require physical movement every day, and it can be easier to meet your daily exercise quota with activities you have to do anyway (like mowing the lawn) than setting aside extra time to do a dedicated training.

Rethinking your idea of ​​exercise could 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 you need to know.

A person walks a bulldog while carrying a paper bag and a skateboard.

Informal exercise has the same impact on the body as formal workouts.

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Can everyday activities really count as exercise?

Short answer: Yes. “Your body can’t tell the difference between bending down to pull a weed and bending down to pick up a kettlebell,” says Robert S. Herbst, 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 the RAPID clinic in Ireland, most people don’t think of informal exercise as real physical exercise. “This may be because informal exercise is difficult to quantify – an hour of walking seems easier to quantify than cleaning the house. But the reality is that many daily tasks consume far more energy than light exercise,” Murphy said.

“Every day, going up and down stairs, going to the shops, carrying things, hanging clothes to dry, etc. – all of these activities add up and over the weeks and months they can significantly influence our energy balance (contributing significantly to weight gain or weight loss),” he continued.

In fact, even some formal workouts intentionally mimic “primitive movement patterns that represent our everyday movement patterns for life,” such as squats, pushing, pulling, and twisting, as master trainer Brian Nunez put it. and Nike Performance Coach. These programs are called “functional training”. Meanwhile, a training program that involves daily activities rather than formal exercise is also called exercise NEAT, or exercise-free activity thermogenesis.

So, in short, don’t discount any physical activity that you do without the intention of exercising. Non-exercise activities are a great way to not only improve your health, but also make it easier to complete tasks and reduce your risk of injury (no more pulling a muscle to carry groceries).

Here are 10 daily activities that count as exercise, according to experts.

A young man with a prosthetic leg sweeps the leaves on the bridge.

House cleaning is a great way to exercise while doing household chores.

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Yard or lawn maintenance

Anyone who’s ever mowed the lawn by hand in the height of summer knows it’s a real workout. Nunez explains, “Besides the low impact and cardiovascular benefits, mowing the lawn requires many functional movement patterns during the process of setting up, mowing the lawn, and cleaning.”

Other types of yard work that are a great workout include gardening, weeding, shoveling snow or leaves, and more.


Who says your daily hour-long walk can’t be done in the aisles of Target? Seriously though, running often involves a lot of walking, carrying, lifting and other motions.

House cleaning

Cleaning the house can involve a wide range of physical movements – going up and down stairs, carrying objects from room to room, pushing and pulling the mop or broom and more.

Walk the dog

Need we say more? You may be busiest exercising for your pup during his daily walk, but remember that you are also taking your steps during this time.

An elderly woman walks a fluffy little dog down a tree-lined street.

Take your daily steps around the block.

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Walk, anywhere

You may have heard this sitting for long periods of time is bad for you. But getting up and moving your body every 30 minutes or so helps, and walking is great exercise, period — whether it’s to the mailbox, down the hall to greet your co-worker, or to grab a snack.

The “I’m late” sprint

If you take public transit regularly, you’ll likely get a ton of light-to-moderate intensity activity throughout your days just by getting to the bus or train. And if you’re late and have to run a bit, that’s all the more effort expended.

Play with children

Do you have children in your life? Getting involved in their game, rather than watching from the nearest couch or bench, will get you out of breath pretty quickly.


Maybe you like to go out dancing, or maybe you’re more of a “solo pajama dance party” type. Either way, know that dancing can also be a full body workout and great cardio.

A young woman dances with a young child in a spacious house.

Dancing is a full body cardio workout.

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Have you ever heard of “laughter yoga”? A 2014 study found that laughter yoga is a better abs workout than crunches or back-lift exercises. So the more humor you find in your day, the better.

having sex

Sexual activity is also a moderate intensity workout. Of course, it depends on the specific activity, but it still uses more energy than weight training.

For more on how to stay fit without the gym, check out how to know if you are healthy without tools or tests and which vitamins you should actually take.

More for your fitness

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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