Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

What counts as exercise?

12/12/2022 by Danielle P. Johnson, M.S., P.T.


Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most healthy adults get at least 150–300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity throughout the week. For many, it can be hard to dedicate significant blocks of time to exercise each day. 

An alternative can be to commit to short periods of movement throughout the day. Spreading activity out during the day can add up to big health benefits. It all counts. Even walking two minutes out of every hour can significantly lower many disease risk factors. Look for opportunities to fit movement into your day, that's the key to getting your "move" on. 

Consider your entire day as your 'workout'

  • Have a walking meeting. 
  • Schedule your meeting in a location that requires a short walk. 
  • If you've been sitting for a while, stand up or take a quick walk, even if it's just throughout the house. 
  • Stand while you talk on the phone. 
  • Try a standing desk. 

Remember the acronym NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. NEAT describes the total calories your body is burning when you're moving throughout the day. 

  • Sixty percent of calories are spent just keeping your body alive — heart pumping, brain thinking, organs working. 
  • Ten percent are used to eat and digest food. 
  • Thirty percent can be devoted to movement. 

Formal exercise is important, but exercise alone can't offset the amount of sitting we do during the day. Choosing to move throughout the day burns calories and helps you get healthier. 

Here are some other ideas to get moving:

  • Go "old school" with chores — use a vacuum instead of using the Roomba, or pick up that snow shovel instead of using the snowblower. 
  • Play tag with your kids. 
  • Wash the windows. 
  • Go sledding or make snow angels with your kids. 
  • Carry your groceries from the store and into your home. 
  • Dig out the hula hoop. 
  • Hear your favorite song? Break into a dance. 

Any and all movement counts. What you do is limited only by your imagination. Have fun. 

Danielle P. Johnson, M.S., P.T., is a wellness physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program in Rochester. She specializes in combining physical therapy with whole-body wellness, and integrating fundamental and natural movement patterns, as well as practical and playful movement, into daily experiences.