10 Surprising Activities That Your Body Counts As Exercise

"It’s important we think of movement and exercise as two very closely linked concepts."

When we think about exercise, especially if we’re not the most active types, it can feel like a chore. The sweating, the heavy breathing, the limbs feeling like they’re on fire... it’s not always the most exciting prospect, is it?

However, according to

Kelley Blalock, Rehabilitation Specialist at Nuffield Health, we’re often doing exercise without even realising it.

She said: “Sometimes, the best way to work out and keep fit is to do something fun that doesn’t feel like exercise at all.”

She believes that if we adjust the way that we think about exercise and movement, incorporating them into our daily life will be easier and we will feel the benefits quite quickly.

Blalock added: “It’s important we think of movement and exercise as two very closely linked concepts.

“When we’re moving, we’re doing something beneficial for our body that doesn’t necessarily amount to our definition of ‘exercise’. If we were to add up all these little movements throughout the day, most of us would probably find we’re doing more than we think.”

To get perspective on this, Blalock suggested looking at your step count after going shopping or even just playing with your kids to see how much exercise is happening without you even realising it.

No matter what your age or ability is, doing little bits and pieces throughout the day will help contribute to your recommended amount of movement for the week.

10 ways you might already be exercising and keeping fit without knowing it

Taking the dog for a walk

Blalock said that having a dog gives us round the clock access to a workout buddy who will never say no to getting some steps in. She added that if you walk your dog for just 30 minutes a day, that’s three and a half hours of walking time a week, which is more than the minimum amount of exercise that the NHS recommends each week!

However, Blalock suggested doing a little more. She said: “Try to add in a second walk that’s slightly longer (one hour) twice a week, and you’re already boosting that active movement number to almost five hours.”

Going shopping

Shopping is probably not anybody’s idea of exercise but when you consider the walking that you do, it very quickly adds to your daily total! That’s before you even consider the weight of the bags and the steps you climb. Blalock said that shopping can be, “a slow and steady workout.”


Blalock said: “You’d be forgiven for forgetting that this super-fun activity could be classed as exercise, but roller-skating is a great way to build cardiovascular fitness and core strength.

“It’s also brilliant for engaging the muscles in your lower body that are responsible for regulating balance and keeping us stable.”

Taking the stairs

If you often opt for the stairs over a lift, Blalock said this is a huge health benefit, especially if you are often sitting down.

This is because taking the stairs engages muscle groups that you aren’t using as regularly and raises your heart rate, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke over time.

Wild swimming

Of course we all know how good swimming is for us but Blalock said that the health benefits of simply splashing about and having fun in the water are less acknowledged.

Blalock said: “On top of spending time in the water, a summer’s day at a scenic open water spot means you’ll be getting plenty of sun on your skin which is a proven way to help boost our mood.”

Blalock added that outdoor swimming also gives us the benefits of cold-water therapy which include inflammation reduction, boosting the immune system and boosting mental wellbeing.

Cleaning the home

Blalock said: “Cleaning absolutely counts as physical exercise.”

Of course, for many of us, it may not be the most appealing form of exercise but Blalock said: “All that moving around, bending down, and reaching across the room helps raise our heart rate and activate muscles we don’t normally use.”

She added that cleaning for around an hour at a good intensity is roughly equivalent to a 20-minute low-impact workout.

Doing yoga or pilates

Blalock was keen to emphasise that while these may not have the same intense feel as spin classes or body pump, “they’re no less effective for our overall health.”

She said that both of these practices focus heavily on developing strength, flexibility, and balance, leading to improved physical fitness and mental benefits like stress reduction and relaxation.

Getting up and moving around at work

Blalock said: “Any movement you can do at work should be viewed as part of a holistic plan that includes all different types of movement you do throughout the day. Whether you work an active, on-the-go job or not, movement is important.”

She recommends that people try to go for walks on their lunch breaks, stretch at their desk or even just take the long way to refill their water bottle as “these little movements all add up over the course of a day.”


Think exercise classes are all heavy machinery and lifting weights? Think again.

If you’re going to dance classes, Blalock said: “These are a great way to get the body moving in a fun and natural way.

“They’re also fantastic for developing confidence in your own body that you can transfer to other movement-based activities.”

Playing with your children

Blalock said that looking after children is in itself a workout. Not just running around after a toddler or cradling a newborn but the everyday activities that you take for granted, too.

Blalock said: “Don’t underestimate all the energy you’re burning by getting up early to look after them, cooking their meals, picking them up from school, and taking them to the park.”

I feel much better about how much exercise I do now!