Everyday Activities That 'Count' As Exercise

Everyday Activities That ‘Count’ As Exercise

a guy playing guitar

Photo: Kucher Serhii (Shutterstock)

Physical activity is important for health, and you’re probably sick of hearing that we should all be doing at least 150 minutes per week of “moderate” exercise like walking, or 75 minutes of “vigorous” exercise like running. But there are more ways to stay active than just these, and you may be doing some of them already.

The physical activity guidelines for Americans define moderate intensity activity as anything that registers between 3.0 and just under 6.0 METs, or metabolic equivalents. A single MET is defined as the amount of energy you burn just by existing, somewhere in the range of a calorie per minute. (This will, of course, vary from person to person based on your body size, age, and more.) So if a brisk walk gets you burning four times as much energy as you expend while lying in bed, we would say that counts as 4 METs and is solidly in the “moderate” category.

Here’s the cool thing: Lots of things register between 3 and 6 METs. Teams of scientists have tested the energy burn of different activities in the lab, and produced charts of their MET measurements. These include household tasks like some types of cleaning, as well as activities that you may not think of as exercise, like playing golf or working a job that has you on your feet all day. Here are some of the things that register in the “moderate” range:

Activities between 3 and 4 METs:

  • Slower tempo ballroom dances, like waltz, foxtrot, slow dancing, samba, tango, 19th century dance, mambo, and cha cha.
  • Fishing
  • Walking and carrying a small child who weighs 15 lbs. or more
  • Hammering nails
  • Plumbing tasks
  • Playing guitar in a rock and roll band (standing up)
  • Working as a bartender, store clerk, librarian, or other jobs that have you standing or walking
  • Bowling
  • Playing frisbee
  • Sailing, including windsurfing and ice sailing
  • Making beds
  • Working on a car
  • Caribbean dances, including Abakua, Beguine, Bellair, Bongo, Brukin’s, Caribbean Quadrills, Dinki Mini, Gere, Gumbay, Ibo, Jonkonnu, Kumina, Oreisha, and Jambu
  • Washing cars, washing windows, or cleaning the garage

In general, most jobs or tasks that have you on your feet clock around 3 METs. Want a step up? The following are 4 METs or more:

  • Doing laundry where you’re washing clothes by hand and hanging them up
  • Elder care, including bathing, dressing, or moving the person into and out of bed
  • Housekeeping work, like cleaning bathrooms and pushing a cart of cleaning supplies around
  • Coaching football, soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming, etc.
  • Pushing or pulling a stroller or walking with children
  • Planting things in the garden
  • Taking care of horses by feeding and watering them, and cleaning stalls
  • Dances like Greek and Middle Eastern folk dances, hula, salsa, merengue, bamba y plena, flamenco, belly, and swing
  • Mowing the lawn with a power mower
  • Doubles tennis
  • Recreational swimming, like a leisurely backstroke

Farm and yard tasks show up a lot in this range, alongside exercises like power yoga and using a rowing machine on one of the lighter settings. Next up, things that register 5 METs or more:

  • Ballet, modern, or jazz dance
  • Cleaning gutters
  • Painting the outside of your house
  • Skateboarding
  • Using crutches
  • Spiritual dancing in church
  • Shoveling snow at a “moderate effort” (“shoveling snow, general” is in a higher category)
  • Hiking or walking through fields and hillsides
  • Fast ballroom dancing
  • Hitting a punching bag
  • Ice skating at 9 mph or less
  • Rodeo sports
  • Moving furniture and carrying boxes

The 5-and-up category also includes boot camp classes, Army-style obstacle courses, heavy squatting, and lap swimming. Anything that’s harder work than what’s listed here is likely to be in the 6 METs-and-up category, which starts with basketball, cheerleading, and driving a drag race car, and goes up from there.

   

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