'Hey, Thatís Exercise!' (Actually, It Might Not Be)


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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From Fitness Magazine

Attention shoppers: Window shopping is not a workout. Which daily tasks do make the cut as exercise? FITNESS Magazine breaks it down here.

Does It Count? IT DEPENDS
A leisurely stop-and-shop visit to the mall won’t get your heart rate up to the cardio zone and keep it there. What does? A walk at a peppy pace of at least three miles per hour done in chunks of 10 minutes or more. Still, adding up steps at any speed is smart since studies show that those who take more of them are healthier. In one recent study, participants who increased their daily step count over five years not only lowered their body mass index (or BMI, a scale body weight), they lowered their risk of diabetes. Researchers estimate that going from 3,000 to 10,000 steps a day would improve a person’s insulin sensitivity threefold.

Cleaning the House
Does It Count? YES
There's a reason they call it housework, honey. You can burn serious calories and work major muscle groups during a marathon cleaning session—mopping floors for 30 minutes burns 112 calories and works your shoulders and biceps. Chores that don’t get your heart pumping? Folding laundry, ironing and washing the dishes.

Walking Your Dog
Does It Count? YES
You have to walk your dog anyway, so bump up the workout with this little game: When you're in your yard or a fenced-in park, get a head start on your dog so it's chasing you. Then change direction so it races for you again. Try walking for three minutes and then sprinting for 30 seconds. Chase your pup five times every doggy outing, and you'll burn 98 calories per 20-minute stroll.

Find out what other activities will help you burn calories (or not)!

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    Never know how many calories I burn working in the garden and in the yard , but can feel the exercise if nothing else and count the steps. - 6/2/2013   2:03:23 AM
  • 52
    Oh good, so spending 3 hours in my husband's closet pulling down boxes, scrubbing walls and putting boxes back up is definitely a workout since I have NEVER done this before, which explains why it took 3 hours. Whoo-hoo! - 5/7/2013   11:02:07 AM
  • 51
    Hmmm....gotta say I have never lost a pound from doing any of those things! The key is to do additional activity than you are used to in your normal routine. Living in a city, I walk a lot. But, I don't count it because it's a daily part of my life, not additional exertion. If you normally do housework, then continuing to do it in the same quantity and counting it as "exercise" is not going to get you any closer to your goals. I personally don't count anything except deliberate cardio and toning (i.e. running or workout DVDs). Also, getting a HR monitor really helped me tell when I have actually put in any exertion. - 4/22/2013   10:13:01 PM
    This is the first blog on Sparkpeople I've read that I believe does more harm then good. Too general and does not take variables into account. - 4/20/2013   11:55:29 AM
  • 49
    Walking my dog would surely count! He is a power walker! He doesn't stop to sniff and pee on everything, he wants to boogie!

    - 4/15/2013   12:38:22 AM
    Wow, spring cleaning is hard work and I' m not even halfway done. I know I burnt some calories. Going up and down the stairs with my arms full sure made me tired. I don't window shop. Although my friend's been trying to get me to the mall so we can do our walks together.. It's warmer inside and the trail is flat. - 3/20/2013   9:31:03 AM
  • 47
    I really need to start walking more - 3/9/2013   9:29:48 PM
  • ALLIB22
    My last job the cleaning was a workout. I was a sweaty tired mess by the time I was done. - 3/7/2013   1:14:51 PM
  • 45
    I do not like totally anonymous material anywhere. - 3/2/2013   3:25:38 PM
  • 44
    This note is for Fancyqtr,(and anyone else with similar mindset). I think that you should mark all of your activities and exercise that you do. I agree with you that some of the comments and items posted can be very discouraging when trying to compare your acvities/vs average data, that a person can feel as though all their efforts are for naught.
    In my own journey,, as with the weight scale, I had to take a step back and REALLY LOOK at what I was doing, what I was not doing, how I felt, and the changes that were happening with me. There are days when I can do many things, I'm pumped full of energy, and feel like I am moving forward. There are days when I know I am being lazy and need to force myself off my duff and get busy doing anything that will improve my health.
    But I still have difficulty breathing when walking across a room, I feel sometimes like I am carrying a whole other person just climbing a small set of stairs. When I walk outside, I literally feel as though my lungs have seized up, my ribs are locked, and I cannot get a wheeze, let alone a breath in, and my pulse is pounding in my neck by my collar bone so hard that I am very much afraid I may have a heart attack.
    Walking to the mail box exhausted me, shopping, walking slowly in the mall, trying to walk at the pace of my kids and still talk, were at times excruciatingly painful and we would have to sit until I could breath and move again.
    When I started walking with friends after work, I went from taking 2 hrs to walk a mile trail, to walking it in 15 minutes. I got bronchitis and walking pneumonia, and had to start all over again, slowly, painfully, but I did it.
    I have repeatedly lost and gained 60 lbs over these past few years, health conditions and illnesses play a factor as well.
    You should be proud of yourself for wanting to make the effort, for getting up and CHOOSING to move every day, for taking the steps to TRY. Your efforts DO matter, they DO make a difference. If it takes you an hour to walk and get the mail, if it takes you an hour to do the dishes, you ARE MOVING, you are MAKING AN EFFORT, to exercise, to take care of yourself, you are making an effort to take care of you.
    Will you get to a point where your clothing size gets smaller, who knows, I believe that it will. But by choosing to make an effort, you WILL get healthier and THAT is what matters most, how you feel physically, how you feel about yourself emotionally, how you treat yourself, how you allow others to treat you. YOU MATTER. Keep up the good work. I believe in you. - 2/17/2013   4:52:43 PM
  • ROMANS1216
    I just think its funny because Americans like convenience and we pay for people to do stuff we could do (and it would make us more active) and then we try to reason on what we have done active that day that can count as exercise. Why don't you just do everything that your lazy mind tells you that you shouldn't do, and when its not enough look for fun and healthy activities that you can enjoy adding to your daily lifestyle. Play a sport with a friend, get a bike and ride to a certain destination, push yourself to achieve more. When there is a store a mile from your house and you just need to grab a few things walk instead of drive. Before we had a 2nd car I didn't make excuses and stay inside. I would walk 3 miles one way with my double stroller. I lost 30 pounds that summer. somehow society has gotten to the point of laziness that we look at people strangely if they say they walked a distance to get somewhere or someone rides their bike to work. Go to Europe and see that even 70 year olds get out every day and walk, and some look like it takes a lot of effort with each step. I have lost 100 pounds and yes I have gone to the gym sometimes but most of it has come by putting these practices to use. Pushing myself to go the distance, to keep adding more to my daily routine. And by the way if you felt a pain in your back washing dishes its more likely that you were in bad posture for so long standing in one place. - 6/23/2011   7:52:38 AM
  • __IZZA__
    I knew cleaning could help you burn calories but I would also include washing dishes. I usually feel it in my back when I wash dishes and considering you hold plates that are quite heavy I wouldn't count it out.

    I think window shopping is alright as well. How often are you not tired from one day of shopping? - 4/13/2011   8:43:56 AM
    For me to burn calories cleaning my house, um.. well, I'd actually have to clean house. :-) - 4/11/2011   4:35:05 PM
  • 40
    I'm amazed and happy to hear that you burn so many calories cleaning the house. I seem to be doing that constantly. - 4/11/2011   11:03:24 AM
    I was shocked when I found out how many calories I burned shoveling the driveway !! I can't tell you how many calories I burned this past winter !!! LOL !!!! - 4/11/2011   9:34:34 AM
  • 38
    I figure if it makes me huff and puff, it is exercise. I'm 72 so I tend to huff and puff pretty easily. - 4/11/2011   12:21:14 AM
  • 37
    I work as a housekeeper in a 16 flr hotel for a living. I started working 2 years ago and when I saw the weight coming off I started counting this as exercise. Some days I clean as many as 30 rms in an 8 hr workday. I push a very heavy cart around, drag wet linen, bend over beds and bathtubs. I have added exercises to my workday. When checking up beds I do pullups and crunches. I take the stairs when possible. It's a workout everyday I work. - 4/10/2011   10:26:26 PM
  • 36
    I walk aroiund the neighborhood.....just need to pick up my pace a tad. - 4/10/2011   9:37:10 PM
  • 35
    Doesn't it depend on what shape you are in and what age you are? For example, for a healthy 30 something woman with a less than 24 BMI, I would t say that cleaning the house or walking the dog are NOT a substitute for exercise. It obviously depends also on what your goals are. I guess that if your only goal is burning extra calories , then yes, those activities burn extra calories, but please, do not call it exercise. But again, it depends on your goals.
    It make me smile a little when I read that Weight Watchers counts shopping at the mall as exercise? I should be at the Olyimpics by now!
    But this is only my opinion, no intention to offend anybody. I know here everyone is trying to do the best they can to improve their health. - 4/10/2011   10:43:49 AM
    I have a Body Bugg and I know just how many calories I'm burning. There are days when I struggle at the gym, scarcely cracking the 5 calorie a minute mark no matter what I do- elliptical, rowing, treadmill, yet that is exercise. On the first, I went shopping (about 3 hours worth) and I ran out of time to go to the gym. Yet I burned 3500 calories that day. Yesterday I baby sat 8 hours and couldn't make it to the gym- 2300 calories. You can't tell me that when I'm shopping and my calorie burn is over 5 calories a minute that a legitimate case can't be made for it counting as exercise. As it happens, I didn't count it, yet the yard work I did this week is supposed to count and most of it was 4.2 calories a minute. - 4/10/2011   4:00:52 AM
    30 minutes of mopping? That's a lot of floors! :^) - 4/8/2011   11:28:23 PM
  • 32
    Depends on what you do while shopping
    Park far from the door
    Pick up heavy items and look at them then put them back if not buying
    Do heel lifts while waiting at the deli counter or in line
    Use a basket instead of a buggy - 4/8/2011   2:57:45 PM
  • 31
    I am one of those who cannot walk fast and walking at any speed can increase my heart rate and breathing quite a bit. I also have a problem with my hips and back hurting many times, so I have trouble walking at all. I was told on Spark People that I could not count my walks as exercise because I couldn't walk the 20 minute mile it lists on the cardio page. That discouraged me enough that I won't even mark any exercise I do and I have gotten very lax in my exercise.

    Last week I walked Fancy out to the end of the road before going out into the state park. We stopped and I let her graze and then walked slowly back to the barn. I was so worn out that I had trouble getting home. But I cannot count that as exercise because it wasn't fast enough. When you are always told something like that it takes away your motivation.

    When I was working, doing inventory, I was breathing hard and sweating all day long and was told I wasn't getting any exercise, too. It seems the only thing that ever counted was swimming and I can't swim fast so that might not count either. - 4/8/2011   12:17:09 PM
  • 30
    P.S. Standing burns more calories than sitting, so if you fold laundry standing up, that counts in my opinion, too! I fold laundry standing up, walking to put away one article of clothing at a time then back to the basket, etc. It IS a moderate workout! - 4/8/2011   11:21:34 AM
  • 29
    I am glad you wrote: "Still, adding up steps at any speed is smart since studies show that those who take more of them are healthier." My son is a personal trainer and gets on my mother about not walking fast enough for it to "count." She is 82. For heaven's sake, a walk to her mailbox at the end of the driveway gets her heart pumping. She parks far from her building at work (yes, she still works part-time). But walking can be painful for her so some days she needs to park closer. I don't want her to get discouraged because she is not walking "fast enough," so I tell her EVERY step counts. I walk with a cane, and I doubt I can hobble at 3 MPH, but my pace is as brisk as I can make it, despite teasing from bus driver friends who see me speed-hobbling all over town! New to Spark, I questioned the usefulness of my walking after seeing the charts for various speeds, but now accept that any walking pace I maintain is helpful. I am trying not to further damage my poor hurting body by overdoing it. I am still trying to adapt some of the exercises here. I tried a single cautious lunge exercise yesterday morning and was in such pain all day I had trouble getting to sleep last night. Okay, so no lunge-work. We need to listen to our own bodies. I do not think we should discourage folks from doing moderate versions of any "exercise." - 4/8/2011   11:19:41 AM
    I got a pup to be a walking companion for me! At 11 mo. she is walking an average of 4mph, we usually stop every 15 min for water/pottybreak, but we usually go 4 miles 3-4 times a week! - 4/8/2011   9:50:16 AM
  • 27
    I agree with other commentors about it depending on your fitness level and weight. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn doing any activity. That's why as you lose weight you need to adjust your workout duration or intensity and lower your calorie intake. - 4/8/2011   9:04:38 AM
  • 26
    I know that if I did anything near what he is suggesting I would fall over from an asthma attack or because my muscles could not do what i wanted them to. - 4/8/2011   9:01:43 AM
  • 25
    If you sit at a desk for most of the day, anytime you can get up and move around is exercise. - 4/8/2011   7:19:24 AM
  • 24
    Finally, someone besides Jillian Michaels is pointing out that walking ten more steps from your parked car to the door isn't actually exercise. Exercise, for 90% of the population, requires a lot more intensity and an extended period of time (10+ minutes). If I called it a workout every time I walked from one classroom to another at work or did the dishes standing up, I'd have double the fitness minutes logged, but probably double the fat. - 4/8/2011   5:41:51 AM
  • 23
    I'm guessing FITNESS MAGAZINE is not geared toward the 300+ immobile crowd. You know, when I was pushing 400 pounds and could barely walk around my work building for 5 minutes without incredible exhaustion, at a window shopping pace, it was definitely a workout!


    (Maybe even just a statement in there saying "estimated calorie burn/recommendation for a ___ lb man or ___ lb woman" would make it more clear.) - 4/8/2011   1:56:29 AM
  • 22
    I get my two hours of exercise doing Housework and have no concern about logging them in since I am working. - 4/8/2011   12:26:36 AM
  • 21
    I appreciate ~INDYGIRL's comments. I always have to qualify everything that is written about exercise. I am slightly crippled (leg problem) and have problems with a foot. Walk at least 3 mph? No way for me! I got up to that speed on my treadmill for one minute today and was very excited! I haven't been able to walk that fast for many years! Increase steps from 3000 to 10,000? I doubt if I walk (limp) 3000 steps a day. I know I am in the minority (and I'm glad I am) but surely there are other people who almost feel alone in the exercise world. I am proud of myself for doing what I can do as often as I can ... and I thank God for every step I take! But, for the healthy ones, I say go for it! And thank God that you are able! - 4/8/2011   12:25:49 AM
  • 20
    Aha, so that's why I always get sweaty after sweeping, mopping, organize things and all those activities during weekend housework. And the most heavy workout at home - cleaning the drain around the house, which is cardio and strength, if you're using broom to sweep and scrub the drain and bending now and then to remove wild plants growing from cracks in the drain, haha. - 4/7/2011   7:56:08 PM
  • 19
    I don't really count housework as exercise. At the motel where I work, if I'm cleaning rooms, I'm going as fast as I can and can easily work up a sweat, so I count that. Around the house, I don't think I'm really getting much exercise in though unless it's really deep spring cleaning.

    I do the chase thing with my dog on our walks. Except it's me chasing him. If he was chasing me, it wouldn't be much of a game. (He is half greyhound, so he is very, very fast and can outrun me no problem.) He'll run, stop, and when I get close, run by me the other direction. We just go back and forth...it's one of his favorite games! - 4/7/2011   4:52:16 PM
    When I started, this last December, I weight 210 pounds. For me a 10 minute walk, at a slow pace was difficult. I would walk around the yard with my dog and that was the best I could do. I now weigh 185 pounds and I found that cleaning was my cardio and still is the best one for me. It is just that my house is now getting a lot clean than before and I do it more because it is a workout for me. I have just recently added yard work.

    The one comment I read that we all must have cleaned before so cleaning doesn't count ticks me off. I now move furniture and scrub my bathrooms down. I sweat and my heartbeats fast.

    I believe if you are losing weight and/or gaining muscle than you're doing whats right for you. No one can tell you what is right for you. The diet police and now the exercise police need to focus on themselves and stop judging what is right for someone else. - 4/7/2011   4:31:04 PM
  • 17
    Ok, I have to comment. Make this a little clearer. Maybe it is not exercise for fit people, but for people recovering from immobility issues and chronic pain, daily non aerobic activity and even walking to the mailbox, let along window shopping IS a workout. IF you don't believe me, read my page. I was bed ridden and used these small workouts to ready myself to walk again, things that possibly nobody "normal" at Fitness would consider a workout. I've now lost 140+ pounds and walk on my own or with a walker.

    What I'm saying is, don't discourage people who can't do the norm, but yes encourage people who can do more. There may have been room for a bit of both here. - 4/7/2011   3:35:22 PM
  • 16
    I regularly count yardwork as exercise. Raking leaves can leave your muscles sore for days afterwards.

    I don't think my doctor believed me when I said that I walked as my workout. He gave me a short lecture about heart rate. I wanted to tell him to join me for a mile. It's not a leisurely pace, and I've got the heart rate monitor to prove it. - 4/7/2011   2:14:16 PM
  • 15
    I think it's important to be supportive of any form of exercise that a person completes in pursuit of good health. "Just put in the work and you will see the results."-
    Not everyone has the time, money, or energy for traditional workouts. Sometimes cleaning the house is pretty much the only time you have time to put in that work. So don't write it off! Weight loss is about a lot of small changes building up to one BIG ONE! - 4/7/2011   2:10:42 PM
  • 14
    I HATE housework, so the only way I can motivate myself to do it is with my favorite music, which ultimately gets me dancing. My husband always laughs at me because he says I enjoy dancing with the mop, broom and vaccum more than him. None the less, I always break a sweat during a 2 hour cleaning session. Oh, and cleaning the pool is the best upper body workout. My arms, shoulders and lats are sore for days. - 4/7/2011   1:58:51 PM
  • 13
    I started using cleaning when I was first on SP a year ago. Thats how I found out that I was not a bed potato but was really getting some exercise. Laundry may not count, but to get it and put it away took over 1000 steps. So I just took smaller loads and walked more. Today I have already stripped and remade beds including the skirt which means picking up the mattresses a couple of times. I moved furniture, exercise equipment, boxes and all sorts of things. Went on like this for 4 hours. So yes I am taking credit for it and all the steps involved. By the way, not done yet. So glad that I am retired and do nothing but sit around all day!!!LOL - 4/7/2011   1:39:47 PM
    we can do all things through Christ - 4/7/2011   1:32:27 PM
  • 11
    I counted cleaning earlier this week. My husband and I have this week off together and we scrubbed our home from top to bottom. I was working out and sweating while doing this. I was down on my knees scrubbing tiles and grout and I felt it in my arms the next day! - 4/7/2011   1:15:02 PM
  • SMITHSH1979
    I think that it is safe to say that at any age or size, if your working hard enough to break a sweat and your heart is beating at a rate that makes you breathe harder than at rest, then you're getting exercise. Don't cheat yourself though, pay attention to how hard your body is working and only count the amount of time you are exerting yourself. Another piece of advise, always strive to work harder or longer to achieve physical fitness. - 4/7/2011   12:56:54 PM
  • 9
    I personally think anything that gets you moving is some form of exercise.

    - 4/7/2011   12:55:54 PM
  • 8
    We recently purchased a 2 story house and believe me when I tell you cleaning that burns plenty of calories. I usually start sweating 1/2 way through the cleaning process. With all the up and down the stairs I usually need a nap by the time I'm done. - 4/7/2011   12:19:12 PM
  • 7
    I have a friend on FB who is very very obese and very very sedentary, and she was actually bragging about how she drove her dog down the street to do his business so she didn't have to walk. - 4/7/2011   11:54:16 AM
  • 6
    Lame. Cleaning the house doesnt count as exercise if you are wanting to burn enough calories to lose weight. I imagine we all have been cleaning our houses since gaining weight .. It didnt help us then to lose it and it wont help us now. Your not building muscle from it and your not going to burn enough fat to lose a pound from it. Just put in the work and you will see the results. - 4/7/2011   11:32:12 AM
  • 5
    Whether or not exercise "counts" depends on how active you are, to start with.

    I can assure you, that when I weighed close to 350 lbs "just" window shopping WAS a workout. A half-mile stroll around the block was an effort - and that was my "exercise" in the beginning.

    For my current fitness level that kind of activity would be a tiny drop in the bucket and not worth counting.

    It's all relative. - 4/7/2011   11:08:05 AM
  • 4
    Oops, I've been counting shopping I wouldn't typically do. No more of that! Never counted house cleaning though. - 4/7/2011   10:47:56 AM

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