Why Carrying Shopping, Mowing the Lawn, Chasing Your Kids and Taking the Stairs All Count as Exercise

Why Carrying Shopping, Mowing the Lawn, Chasing Your Kids and Taking the Stairs All Count as Exercise

If paying your dues in the squat rack has dropped off your list of priorities lately, you’re far from alone. Along with sarcasm and queueing, it seems we Brits are quite adept at skipping workouts. One survey commissioned by health body ukactive concluded that we spend twice as much of our time making tea as we do working out, while in separate research by Nuffield Health, one in six reported doing no exercise at all in the past year.

But the reality might not be as glum as the stats suggest. Most people have a misconception about what constitutes exercise, viewing it as activities performed purely for the purpose of building fitness or burning fat. ‘This isn’t the case,’ says Adam Byrne, clinical fitness lead for Nuffield Health in Wimbledon, London. Carrying shopping bags, mowing the lawn, chasing your kids, taking the stairs – all of that falls under the bracket of ‘moderate activity’, of which you need just 150 minutes a week.

If weight loss is your goal, Steve, this kind of movement – which is often referred to as ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’ or NEAT – has more of an impact than you might think: most estimates suggest NEAT contributes to 15% to 30% of your daily calorie burn, compared with 5% to 15% for scheduled exercise.

But it’s not all about the calories. The NHS advises strength work twice a week, too. And this doesn’t just mean ‘squatting and lifting – although that’s great’, says Byrne. ‘From rugby and rowing to working on a building site and, to a certain degree, yoga, all of these are forms of strength training.’

Intensity matters, as well as duration. If all your activity falls into the ‘moderate’ band (slightly raised heart rate and body temperature, quicker breathing), your endurance will improve but you won’t see major gains to your anaerobic capacity – your ability to perform quick bursts of movement at max effort; the kind of intensity at which you couldn’t hold a conversation comfortably, such as hefting a heavy bag of fertiliser to the other side of the garden. If your daily routine doesn’t tax you quite that much, you might want to reconsider renewing that gym membership after all.

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