11 ways you’re exercising (without knowing it)

Kelley Blalock Kelley Blalock Rehabilitation Specialist and Senior Personal Trainer
We often think of exercise as something intense or as activities we do in the gym, but when we're looking at building healthier habits, it’s just as important to appreciate all the movement we do throughout the course of the day. This includes things like cleaning, walking the dog, and playing with our children.

Sometimes, the best way to work out and keep fit is by doing things that don’t feel like exercise at all. In this article, Senior Wellbeing Personal Trainer Kelley Blalock explores how every day activities benefit us and why you shouldn’t ignore or downplay less intense forms of movement and exercise.

Why movement matters

It’s important we think of movement and exercise as very closely linked.

When we’re moving, we’re doing something beneficial for our body that doesn’t necessarily amount to our definition of ‘exercise’. If we were to add up all these little movements throughout the day, most of us would probably find we’re doing more than we think.

If you’re not sure, put this theory to the test. Next time you’re playing with the kids or out shopping, make a note of how many steps you do and whether your heartrate rises.

How movement impacts our health

We often think of exercise as something we need to put dedicated time aside for. This can mean we ignore the benefits of all the movement we do during the day that helps keep us fit and healthy.

Things like playing about with your kids or all the walking you do whilst out shopping shouldn’t be ignored just because they’re not part of a regimented exercise routine.

No matter what your age or ability is, doing little bits and pieces throughout the day will help contribute to your recommended amount of movement for the week.

Keep reading to discover how you might be exercising and keeping fit without knowing it.

1. Walking the dog

It’s often the case that it’s our dog taking us for a walk more than the other way around.

It’s no secret that dogs make the best training partners. Having a furry friend in the house gives you round the clock access to a workout buddy who’ll never say no to getting some extra steps in.

Come rain or shine, being out there braving the elements to keep them fit, healthy, and happy has just as many benefits for you as it does for them. For example, just walking your dog for the recommended minimum of 30 minutes per day will see you both clock up three and a half hours of walking time per week.

Add in a second walk that’s slightly longer (one hour) twice a week, and you’re already boosting that active movement number to almost five hours.

2. Shopping

Whilst shopping might not feel like exercise, all the walking you’ll do can help add thousands of steps to your daily total.

Factor in the bags you’ll be carrying and the stairs you’ll climb, and a bit of retail therapy quickly becomes a slow and steady workout.

3. Roller-skating

Roller-skating has had a resurgence in recent months, as people rediscover the health benefits of this low-impact activity.

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that this super-fun activity could be classed as exercise, but roller-skating is a great way to build cardiovascular fitness and core strength. It’s also brilliant for engaging the muscles in your lower body that are responsible for regulating balance and keeping us stable.

If you’re interested, there are classes available in more central locations. If you’re confident to take it up solo, you can invest in your own pair of skates and practice in your garden or at the local park to build up skill and endurance.

4. Taking the stairs

Regularly take the stairs instead of the lift? You might be surprised how quickly this small detour turns into a big health benefit.

If you’re sat down a lot of the time, taking the stairs can help engage muscle groups that you aren’t using as regularly. It’ll also raise your heart rate slightly, which helps lower your risk of heart disease and stroke over time.

5. Wild swimming

Wild swimming has grown in popularity in recent years, with more and more media attention focusing on the benefits of using outdoor spaces that are affordable for everyone to keep fit.

We all know how good swimming is for us, but the health benefits of just splashing about and having fun in the water are less acknowledged. On top of spending time in the water, a summers day at a scenic open water spot means you’ll be getting plenty of sun on your skin which is a proven way to help boost our mood.

Alongside these benefits, outdoor swimming also gives us the benefits of cold-water therapy, which include inflammation reduction, boosting the immune system and improving mental health and wellbeing.

For those who prefer the comfort of the indoors, you can still reap the health benefits of swimming by visiting your local swimming pool or joining a gym that offers this service.

6. Cleaning

Cleaning absolutely counts as physical exercise.

Whilst it might not sound appealing as a form of exercise, the physical benefits are not to be overlooked. All that moving around, bending down, and reaching across the room helps raise our heartrate and activate muscles we don’t normally use.

Whether you’re scrubbing your bathroom or hoovering the house, it’s important to remember that intensity is what matters. It’s estimated that cleaning for around an hour at a good intensity is roughly equivalent to a 20-minute low-impact workout.

You’ll also get a mental boost at the end when you can see the fruits of your labour.

7. Yoga and Pilates

Whilst these classes don’t have the same intense feel as a spin or body-pump class, they’re no less effective for our overall health.

It’s important to think of yoga and Pilates as more than just wellbeing practices that calm the mind. Both focus heavily on developing strength, flexibility, and balance, leading to improved physical fitness and mental benefits like stress reduction and relaxation.

In fact, yoga and Pilates feature heavily in the recovery regimes of many top athletes. The best part is that you can get involved at home using virtual classes and follow-along style videos.

8. Getting up and moving at work

Any movement you can do at work should be viewed as part of a holistic plan that includes all the different types of movement you do throughout the day. Whether you work an active, on-the-go job or not, movement is important.

After all, sitting for long periods has been linked with an increased risk of developing serious health risks like cardiovascular problems, obesity, and heart disease, so anything you can do during the day to prevent this goes a long way to minimising these risk factors.

Whether that means going for a walk on your lunch break, standing up to stretch at your desk, or taking the long way to refill your water bottle, these little movements all add up over the course of a day.

9. Dancing

Think you know what an exercise class looks like? Think again.

Dance classes are a great way to get the body moving in a fun and natural way. They’re also fantastic for developing confidence in your own body that you can transfer to other movement-based activities.

Some of the most popular classes include street, hip-hop, salsa, Zumba, aqua, ballroom, and jazzercize, with the amount of movement involved varying between styles. They’re all a great way to get a sweat on, burn calories, improve fitness, and have fun whilst you’re doing it.

The best part is you can even get involved virtually, with classes being taught virtually!

10. Playing with your children

Whether you’re cradling a newborn, running around after a toddler, or trying to keep up with a teenager, having kids can be tiring.

Don’t underestimate all the energy you’re burning by getting up early to look after them, cooking their meals, picking them up from school, and taking them to the park.

If you have young kids, they’ll love mum or dad getting involved with their games. Whether it’s building forts or chasing them around the house, they’ll sleep better that night, and your body will reap the rewards of all that added movement you’re giving it.

Lastly, taking the stairs is an incredibly effective form of exercise. It can burn more calories than jogging and when you add up how many flights you climbed in a day, you’ll be surprised just how many steps you’ve added to your daily total.

11. Playing golf

There’s a reason golf is one of the most popular sports for people of all ages. Silently racking up the steps whilst you’re playing allows you to get your exercise for the day in whilst having fun in the process.

Most golfers don’t even consider their sport exercise, even though you’ll walk anywhere between 5 and 10km during a round depending on your speed, ability, and the length of the course. This can amount to around 10,000 steps during a full 18-hole round.

  • Walking the course instead of taking a buggy helps young and old players alike maintain their cardiovascular health and reduce joint pain whilst playing.

Last updated Friday 22 March 2024

First published on Friday 22 March 2024