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.
Since COVID-19 has forced many gyms and fitness centers to shutter, you’re probably spending most of your time doing physical activity, like gardening, walking the dog or going on a bike ride in the park. And since there’s likely no dedicated building for you to attend a HIIT class, exercise in your home might look like lifting weights, spinning on your Peloton or attending an online class.
But even if you don’t have time to schedule heart pumping exercise, just a few small tweaks to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine can get your heart pumping without much effort.
To get started, consider adopting some of these easy swaps:
1. 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.
2. Walk to your local store instead of driving. If you’re in need of just a few items at the grocery store, consider popping in some earbuds and walking. Each additional five minutes you walk burns 20 calories.
3. Pick an active volunteer gig. People in your community need help more than ever during COVID-19. You can give back by helping out in the community garden or packing boxes at a food bank. A rigorous task like gardening, for example, burns about 340 calories per hour. That’s four times more calories than sitting, and you’ll feel better helping those in need!
4. Bike to get errands done. Bicycling is solid physical activity even if you’re going at a light-to-moderate pace. Try biking 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.
5. Go for walking meetings. Got a casual one-on-one meeting on the calendar? Ask the other attendee to walk it out with you virtually. It’s a great way to multitask and burn some extra calories while you’re at it! A walking meeting is more energizing than sitting in front of a Zoom screen. And just 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Book an active date. Since dinner and a movie are off the table due to COVID-19, you’ll have to rethink date night with your quarantine buddy. A few good ideas are hiking, walking along the beach or biking. You can bond 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.
Gym-Free Hacks Make a Difference
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.