Gardening, Walking, Cleaning: What Counts As Exercise?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Vacuuming a home, raking the lawn or carrying boxes up the stairs can help the heart. That’s according to a new, long-term study on exercise. It finds day-to-day activities can be a benefit when it comes to reducing heart disease.

So, what counts as exercise? Good Question.

Americans generally have a strict definition of what it means to exercise – swimming, biking, lifting weights, yoga, aerobics, or running often come to mind.

“I think that’s discouraging for a lot of people because you think you have to plan for 30 to 50 minutes of exercise a day,” said Jen Dysterheft, a professor of exercise science at Hamline University.

She says that’s not necessarily true. She defines exercise as any sort of planned movement.

“If you’re outside gardening for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes of your 30 minutes of exercise a day,” she said.

She says carrying the laundry, bringing in groceries, chasing children and mowing the lawn can all count. According to the Compendium of Physical Activity (a measurement of energy expenditure), each of those activities can offer a level of moderate exercise.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.

Dysterheft says people can often determine how hard they’re working with a “conversation test.” With moderate exercise, a person can speak in sentences, but may be taking heavier breaths. Vigorous exercise means it’s hard to speak because a person is concentrating on breathing.

For some people, they can reach a moderate level of exercise with intense vacuuming, raking or taking the stairs. Experts recommend exercising in spurts of at least 10 minutes.

Dysterheft also says sweating isn’t a good indicator of energy output because everyone sweats differently. How a person feels afterward also doesn’t offer a good measurement due to differing fitness levels.

“I would say how you feel during it is a good indicator of how hard you’re pushing yourself,” she said.

More from Heather Brown
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