The Parking Lot Workout: Looking at Exercise in Everyday Activities

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Month of Little Steps to Health FitessJanuary is BlogHer's Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness, and we want you to share your favorite easy health tip! Click here to see how to play along. And check out all the tips so far in the Month of Little Steps to Health & Fitness series.

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You know how back in the olden days, your grandparents walked to school uphill (both ways -- and in the snow). And they didn't have these stinkin' computers -- they just hit a ball against the steps and called themselves lucky to have an activity. Some kids weren't even that lucky! All they had was a piece of string to amuse themselves with for hours. And they had to milk the cows, in minus 20 degree temperatures. (The barn, by the way, was also uphill both ways.) And they never complained.

The point?

Your grandparents (okay, maybe more like your great-grandparents) had exercise naturally worked into their day without ever going to the gym. Without donning yoga pants and a sports bra. And it wasn't called exercise. It was simply called Life.

With an attitude tweak, you can stop feeling guilty that you don't have time to get to the gym and also have a clean house in the process.

Did you know that light cleaning (dusting, vacuuming, straightening up) burns almost 100 calories per hour (on average since the amount of calories burned is based on current weight)? And 100 calories is nothing to sneeze at. It's better than the number of calories burned sitting in front of a computer -- only 30 by the same calculation. And while you may be able to burn more calories during an hour of cardio at the gym, you don't get a clean house to boot from running on a treadmill.

Volunteer to help a friend move -- one hour of moving boxes equals an average of 350 calories burned. You just earned major friend points AND you got a fantastic workout; not from a piece of gym equipment, but from simply living life.

The reason your grandparents could eat spoonfuls of schmaltz and not look as if they had eaten spoonfuls of schmaltz is because they walked everywhere they could. They walked into town, they walked to school, they walked to their friend's house. Even though I can often walk places, I choose to drive because I don't have the time to commit to the walk. And while that may be true if I think about it on a daily basis, it's not really true sometimes -- so grab those exceptions to the rule. Even if you can't do something every day, it's still worth taking that walk when you can. You know why? Because an hour of walking on level ground burns 175 calories.

And most people can choose to add in some walking by parking as far away as possible from the door in the parking lot. If you were, let's say, to park far enough away to warrant an hour long walk (where the hell are you going where the parking lots are that enormous?) and you schlepped some groceries back with you, you'd burn 230 calories. Even if you only tacked 15 minutes onto your walk, you could rack up some nice calories burned.

So rather than overhaul your entire fitness routine this year (because, come on, we all know that we're not actually going to stick with it), make a commitment to walk somewhere one day a week, park farther from the door, clean your house, or have more sex (you can burn 150 calories per hour!). In other words, live your life. You know, just like your grandparents did. Uphill. Both ways.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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