If you’re looking to get or stay healthy, measuring your progress can be difficult. Do you focus on your changing weight? Or the change in inches around your thighs and waist? Is it by how far or how fast you can run? Or maybe you focus on a little bit of everything.
When it comes to monitoring your health, it’s become easier to watch the number of calories you burn thanks to the increase of personal health trackers, like Fitbits and Apple Watches. And although different types of personal trackers can yield varying results, looking at calories burned does make it easier to compare activities. For example, it’s difficult to compare the effects of running 5 km and completing a yoga class without looking at the amount of calories burned.
But how do you keep track on the days when you can’t make it to the gym? Well, you can still burn some extra calories by doing ordinary things around the house or workplace.
After finding the estimated number of calories burned for each activity online, I compared them with my Apple Watch’s workout feature to see whether cleaning really is as exhausting as it feels. Spoiler: it is.
First off, keep in mind that all the results are from a woman with a medium height and build in her early thirties. It’s also worth noting that my Apple Watch definitely counted more calories when I put it in fitness mode. And my week spent counting calories for household chores that I normally do helped me achieve a new workout record, which I knew wasn’t right. But I’ll take all the positive affirmation I can get.
1. A SLOW WALK
Average calorie count: 255 calories/hour
My calorie count: 191 calories/hour
I walked for one hour and 11 minutes and covered 5.17 km, burning 191 calories. This walk did include a break at the midway point while I waited for my Starbucks order. According to Business Insider, a 200-pound person can burn 255 calories by walking 3 km per hour, which is a number I didn’t get close to.
Average calorie count: 100 calories/30 minutes
My calorie count: 112 calories/30 minutes
I went shopping for yoga pants, and my heart rate really went up after accidentally pulling on a pair of compression tights.
Average calorie count: 100 calories/65 minutes
My calorie count: 207 calories/65 minutes
I was pretty excited about testing this calorie kicker and amazingly, it worked. I somehow burned over 200 calories while reading for 65 minutes, which explains why I used to fall asleep on my textbooks in school. Well, it partly explains it. Take that, squats.
4. SIT ON THE FLOOR
Average calorie count: Unknown
My calorie count: 103 calories/30 minutes
Katy Bowman, the author of Move Your DNA, said that “when you sit on the floor, your muscles have to support you, and you work harder to stand up,” which helps burn calories. I compared sitting on the ground for 30 minutes while watching TV to sitting on the couch. Sitting on the ground only helped me burn 2 extra calories and made me realize my rug from Costco was not as comfortable as I previously believed. If your mantra is ‘every calorie counts,’ then this works. If you’d rather be comfortable while watching The Voice, stick to the couch.
5. CLEAN YOUR DESK
Average calorie count: 15 calories
My calorie count: 15 calories/5 minutes.
According to Health.com, tidying your workspace and watering your plants can help you burn 15 calories. But the issue with many websites that suggest calorie-burning activities is that they don’t include how long to do it for. I cleaned my desktop until I reached 15 calories, which took me five minutes. That’s a lot of time to spend shooting balled-up sticky notes into the trash can.
Average calorie count: 100 calories/35 minutes
My calorie count: 38 calories/10 minutes
My home isn’t big enough to warrant 35 minutes of vacuuming, but 38 calories in 10 minutes had me on track to burn 100 in 35 minutes if I had more space to clean. Throw some lunges in and you’ll really be burning through the numbers.
7. CLEAN YOUR BATHROOM
Average calorie count: 107 calories/25 minutes
My calorie count: 79 calories/25 minutes
I’m hoping that my results just mean I’m an efficient cleaner, not a negligent one.
8. CLEAN YOUR KITCHEN
Average calorie count: 115 calories/15 minutes
My calorie count: 63 calories/15 minutes
It would appear that I’m not putting enough effort into keeping my kitchen clean.
Average calorie count: Unkown
My calorie count: 64 calories/23 minutes
I kept track of my calories burned while sorting, loading, unloading, hanging, folding and putting away two loads of laundry. Not bad!
10. UNLOAD THE DISHWASHER
Average calorie count: 52.5 calories/15 minutes
My calorie count: 10 calories/3 minutes
Is there a dish unloading Olympic team I should be auditioning for? Who on earth is taking 15 minutes to empty a standard-sized dishwasher? Answer: someone who’s burning a lot of calories.
Average calorie count: 50 calories/5 minutes
My calorie count: 47 calories/15 minutes
This one is tough to gauge. I watched a comedy for 15 minutes and laughed approximately four times, burning 47 calories. The real question is, how many calories do I burn crying each week while watching This Is Us?
12. MAKING THE BED
Average calorie count: 70 calories/week
My calorie count: 15 calories/4 minutes
The four minutes I spent making the bed included putting on the the fitted sheet, top sheet, comforter and four pillowcases. If you want to burn extra calories, you could always buy a fitted sheet for a twin bed and try to muscle it onto your queen-sized mattress.
13. STANDING AT WORK
Average calorie count: 100 calories/40 minutes
My calorie count: 100 calories/29 minutes
I was pleasantly surprised about how many calories I burned just by standing. I work from home, and trying to find ways to not be sedentary has been a struggle. Last year, I invested in a standing desk and it’s been a literal butt saver. To compare, I burned 100 calories after 29 minutes of standing and burned the same number of calories after sitting for 47 minutes.
14. SHOP WITH A BASKET
Average calorie count: 100 calories/30 minutes
My calorie count: 123 calories/30 minutes
If you’re hitting the grocery store and aren’t planning on buying a year’s supply of canned goods, grab a basket instead of a cart. Holding a heavy basket for 30 minutes will burn extra calories and, as a bonus, you’ll only pick up what you really need.
15. APPLYING MAKE UP
Average calorie count: Unknown
My calorie count: 27 calories/8 minutes
Anyone who wears makeup knows there are some days you literally just can’t. Can’t find the energy, or can’t be bothered or simply can’t hold your eyes open while applying eyeliner. I conducted my own experiment to see how much energy I was putting into applying moisturizer, CC cream, powder, primer, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, filling in my eyebrows and applying blush and lipstick. Turns out, I don’t wake up like this, but I do put in a lot of effort.
Here are a few more ways to burn calories:
- The one that we’ve all been waiting for: sexy times. Couples can burn up to the 300 calories while having sex. Keep in mind, that’s the hourly rate, but some simple math can cut that in half or quarters. No judgement.
- Chewing gum. A study done at the University of Rhode Island found that people who chew gum burn up to 8 per cent more calories than non-gum chewers and that chewing gum can help people consume 68 less calories per day.
- Swap your desk chair for a stability ball. Sitting on one can burn up to 260 calories per day, so even if you only sit on it for few hours, that’s still pretty impressive.
- Do whatever helps you chill out to reduce stress. People who are stress-free can burn over 100 calories more per day than those who are stressed. Looks like those Lululemon tote bags were right.
- Grab a cup of coffee or tea. Drinking caffeine can help a person increase the rate at which they burn calories.
- You may find yourself on the receiving end of some dirty looks, but fidgeting and constantly moving can burn an impressive number of calories. Tap your feet, pace around your surroundings and keep moving to burn an extra 350 calories per day.
- If you’re looking for a way to get healthy on a Friday night, maybe try hitting the bowling lanes. Bowling for one hour can burn 273 calories. Nachos and beer not included.
- If bowling isn’t your idea of fun, try a game of pool. Spend 45 minutes at the billiard table fine-tuning your pool skills and burn 100 calories.
- Keep your home cool. Turning up the AC or lowering the heat can help your body burn brown fat calories to keep you warm. Plus, it makes your monthly heating bill lose a bit of weight as well.
- Gardening season may be almost done for the year, but when spring time rolls around again you may be happy to know that having a green thumb is good for the earth and your body. Spending 25 minutes digging in the garden can burn up to 105 calories.
And if you’re getting tired thinking about all of those activities, why not go to sleep early today? Getting between seven to nine hours of sleep helps speed up your metabolism and helps you burn calories faster. So you can literally burn calories by doing nothing at all!