Everyone knows that activities like running, cycling and lifting weights are fantastic forms of exercise, but what about the ordinary tasks we undertake on a day-to-day basis? That walk to the shop and back, for example, or vacuuming the house – talk about getting a sweat on!
We explored everyday activities that you may be surprised to hear can burn some serious calories.
How many calories do men and women burn in daily life?
*calculations based on the average sized man and woman in the UK
If you’re among the 35% of Brits that don’t actively work out, it will come as good news to you that you can burn calories by simply going about your day. And the benefits of these activities don’t end there.
Did you know that getting outdoors for a leisurely walk or to do some gardening can boost your immune system, provide you with vitamin D and lower your blood pressure? Even housework comes with its health advantages, with arguably menial tasks like ironing offering meditative benefits, and more active jobs like vacuuming providing a pretty good workout for your arms, legs and core. Who needs ‘legs, bums and tums’? So, if you fall within the 3 in 5 Brits that clean weekly, you could be blitzing calories in the act.
The everyday calorie burners that may really come as a surprise, however, are the more sedentary activities, such as sleeping, watching TV, browsing social media and taking a bath. Even when your body is at rest it continues to burn calories with functions such as breathing and digesting food. Plus, a recent study suggested that when you’re in a hot bath, you burn more calories as a result of your body temperature rising.
This said, burning calories does not equate to staying fit and healthy. While your body continues to burn calories during downtime, by no means should it replace physical activity. In fact, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to numerous health problems, including obesity, heart disease and more. It’s, therefore, essential that you stay as active as possible.
Since the pandemic began, people have reported a significant impact on the level and type of exercise they are achieving. While 1 in 5 say they have taken up exercise as a form of self-care during this time, nearly 1 in 5 also say they are less active now than they were before the pandemic and a quarter admit to snacking more often. Hopefully, with the knowledge that exercise can be achieved in less strenuous ways, people will feel inspired to take up a new hobby, get the housework done or take the time out to go for a stroll.
We spoke to Lee Cain to get his expert take on the importance of keeping active and the many ways people can stay fit and healthy at this time.
Lee Cain is Managing Director of HFE (Health and Fitness Education), one of the UK’s leading fitness industry training providers. He has over 20 years’ experience in writing, delivering and developing educational programmes and content for exercise professionals, including personal trainers, Pilates teachers and yoga practitioners.
They say that ‘variety is the spice of life’ and from an exercise perspective, this is definitely the case. There is no single exercise that will develop every aspect of fitness, so it’s important to participate in a range of activities that will keep all of the body’s systems functioning effectively and efficiently. For example, to be able to meet the daily demands of life, we need a degree of muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular resilience, flexibility, and skill-based attributes like speed, balance and reaction time.
The most effective strategy of all would be to combine frequent periods of physical activity performed regularly throughout the day, with 30-60 minutes of structured exercise, including both cardiovascular and resistance work. Most people lead a hectic and busy lifestyle, so it’s not always easy to get to the gym. There are always opportunities in the day to increase your level of physical activity though, even if it’s volunteering to make everyone a cup of tea!
Aside from the physical benefits of physical activity and exercise, there are also a profound number of mental and emotional benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, and a more stable mood.
Performing physical activity in the great outdoors is an even better way to maximise these benefits. The ‘biophilia effect’, which translates to ‘the love of life’, describes how being in and around visually stimulating scenery, especially alongside nature, can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and increase positive mood, focus and concentration. So, walking, gardening and even dancing in the outdoors will make you feel considerably better!
There are lots of things that you can do around the house, like a virtual yoga or Pilates class, some online Zumba, or even just an old school aerobics class. YouTube is full of programmes like these that you can do for free.
Exercising in the home does require discipline though. A knock at the door, phone call, or argument between the kids is often all it takes to throw you off your game. That’s why, if at all possible, I’d always recommend doing the bulk of your exercise away from potential distractors, ideally outdoors. Brisk walking and jogging, or a combination of the two, is something that anyone low on aerobic fitness can benefit from. It’s also a great way to clear your head and get some all-important ‘you time’.
To have a healthy body you need a healthy diet – I can’t put it simpler than that! It doesn’t matter how much exercise you do, or how fit you might be, you can’t outrun a poor diet!
Most people are now familiar with the energy balance equation, which explains how the calories consumed, minus the calories expended, equals your net calories. When the net figure is a positive number, this results in weight gain.
Alongside the calorie content of different foods, it’s also important to develop an appreciation of portion control, as this is where the wheels can fall off for many people. For example, if you are eating healthy foods, but your portions are too big, you’ll still be consuming more energy than you need.
Data used in this campaign is from a combination of primary and secondary sources. A survey of 2,006 Brits was conducted with Censuswide to collect data on exercise habits and average times spent on activities. Spinning, lifting weights and yoga is based on the amount of time people state they workout per week. Average sleep time is from Chemist 4 U, average walking distance is based on average steps from CABA and time spent on social media is from Broadband Search. Calorie burn stats were calculated using the Health Status Calorie Calculator. Calculations are based on the average male (40 years-old, 13st 5lb, 5’9) and average female (40 years-old, 11 st 6lb and 5’3), with this information found on The Express, The Telegraph and The Guardian. Information about calories in each food was sourced from the menus from Nandos, Pret-A-Manger, KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Express, Costa, Subway, Joe & The Juice, Dominos, Starbucks, and Greggs. Biscuit calorie data is from Nutracheck and alcohol calorie data is from Drink Aware. The cited research about calories burned in the bath was carried out by Loughborough University.
Interested in learning a bit more about the calories you’re burning from day-to-day? The best way to track your personal stats is with a smartwatch. The Garmin smartwatch range is designed to help you stay on top of your daily activity, by tracking your steps, heart rate, calories burned and much more. For runners, a Garmin running watch, such as the Garmin Forerunner is your perfect companion, helping you monitor your time, pace and distance, and even providing you with a personalised training plan. Or, for everyday versatility, the Garmin Venu balances style and functionality to work with your wardrobe.