What’s the difference between physical activity and exercise? Exercise is a special class of physical activity. It’s usually planned, structured and tied to a fitness goal. Physical activity is everything else.
Unless you’re an avid gym rat, you’ll spend most of your time doing physical activity instead of exercise. Examples of exercise are lifting weights, spinning at SoulCycle or doing a morning jog. Examples of physical activity are gardening, walking the dog or delivering the mail. You guessed it: your job has a big effect on your activity level. People who work white-collar office jobs typically live more sedentary lifestyles than their blue-collar counterparts.
A lot of us like to squeeze our exercise into a few hours on the weekend, but we can be doing a lot more. A few small changes can help us score more activity without stepping foot into a gym!
To get started, consider adopting some of these gym-free hacks*:
1. Use the stairs instead of elevators. This one move torches four times the calories, which will add up over time. You’ll burn 28 calories versus seven calories per five-minute trip if you take the stairs instead.
2. Turn TV commercial breaks into fitness breaks. You can choose your favorite bodyweight workout such as air squats, lunges, planks, crunches, jumping jacks or pushups. Ten minutes of exercise during a commercial break earns you 90 calories compared to just 11 calories if you sit through the break.
3. Park your car in the back of the parking lot. The farther your car is from the destination the better. Each additional five minutes you walk burns an extra 20 calories.
4. Pick an active volunteer gig. You can give back by helping to dig a garden, assemble furniture or carry boxes. A rigorous task like gardening, for example, burns about 340 calories per hour. That’s four times more calories than sitting, and you’ll likely have more fun!
5. Window shop at the mall. If you enjoy passing the time by strolling through an air-conditioned mall, this could be a good option for you. A one-hour mall stroll can help you burn 160 calories. Just be careful in case this also burns a hole through your wallet!
6. Bike to get work done. Bicycling will give you good physical activity even if you’re going at a light-to-moderate pace. Try biking to and from work and to get your chores done (think picking up the milk, dropping off packages at the post office, etc.). It all adds up — a one-hour bike ride will help you burn about 410 calories.
7. Go for walking meetings with your colleagues. This is a good way to multitask and burn some extra calories while you’re at it! A walking meeting is more energizing than being closed up in the boardroom. A half-hour walk at a slow, three miles per hour pace results in 113 calories burned for each of you. This hack works well for phone meetings and in-person meetings with three or fewer people.
8. Wash your car at home. Take advantage of the sunny days by washing and waxing your car. All that scrubbing, stooping and bending will get you a cleaner car and help you burn off a few extra calories. A one-hour car wash session burns 205 calories — that’s the equivalent of jogging two miles.
9. Walk the dog every evening. Spend more time with your furry pal instead of relaxing on the couch. You’ll burn three times more calories walking your dog than staring blankly at the TV. A 20-minute dog walk burns the same amount of calories as watching TV for an hour.
10. Book an active friend date. Instead of going out for drinks, dinner or a movie, pick a more active option. A few good ideas are hiking, kayaking, biking, dancing or swimming. You can bond with your buddies while becoming more fit! You’ll be having fun, and if you’re out on a hike, you probably won’t even notice that you’re burning 410 calories an hour.
Why A Gym-Free Hack Matters
You’re probably thinking that shaving a few calories here and there doesn’t matter, but it really does! For example, new research shows that eating just 10 calories more or less daily will eventually lead to a one pound weight gain or loss. Most of us gain weight slowly over time and don’t even notice, but you can fight this by choosing a few small activities that you can commit to regularly.
* Scientific note: We estimated the calories burned for each activity based on a 150-pound person. We gauged an activity’s intensity by its metabolic equivalent (MET).
Got a gym-free hack you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments below.