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Actually…you are exercising

Wherever you are, you can reap the benefits of movement

By Jacque McShane

Happy New Year! Did you resolve to get more exercise in 2022? We know exercise is important, but somehow, as we pile on more responsibility and life gets crazy, exercise takes a backseat. Another situation I see often is people setting grandiose goals to train for a marathon, hit the gym five days a week, or start CrossFit when they haven’t gone for a walk or lifted a dumbbell for several months. The result: They quit after a week because they are too sore to move, or worse, they get injured. 

Many of us resolve to start working out to lose weight because we are in an energy crisis — and I’m not talking about fossil fuels. I’m talking about the fact that we consume more energy (calories) than we expend, causing weight gain. Back in the stone age, when humans had to forage for berries and hunt for meat, we were calorie-burning machines. Today, we don’t have to leave the couch for, well, anything. We can have food delivered, command Alexa to change the channel and run just about anything in our home via a phone app. 

The good news is that you don’t have to be drenched in sweat or feel like you’re on the verge of death to get the benefits of exercise. The truth is, you’re already getting healthy movement throughout your day in the form of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). 

NEAT is all the movement outside of planned exercise. Believe it or not, this type of movement is a more efficient way to fight calorie creep and a more important contributor to calorie expenditure. Plus, it’s much easier to do and doesn’t take any additional time. It’s also the safest way to incorporate movement into your day if you’ve not seen the inside of a gym or laced up your running shoes in a while, your BMI is over 30 or you have a medical condition. 

You’re already getting NEAT movement when you clean the house, keep up with kids, wash dishes by hand, mow the yard, pull weeds, or basically do anything other than remain horizontal. 


  1. Stance: Your mom was right — you need to sit up straight because when you focus on the muscles that support your body’s core axis (chest, shoulders, back, legs and abdominals), you’ll burn calories and start preparing your body to move into more strenuous exercise. When sitting, flex your stomach muscles and take deep, slow breaths. 
  2. Standing: The action of moving from sitting to standing is enough to burn calories. That’s why your watch reminds you when you’ve been sitting too long. Stand whenever you can. 
  3. Strolling: Get those steps in! Walk to the furthest bathroom at work. Get up to talk to a co-worker rather than instant messaging or calling them. Park in the farthest parking spot and walk while you’re talking on the phone. The goal is 10,000 steps per day. 
  4. Stairs: Did you know that climbing one flight of stairs burns approximately as many calories as taking 100 steps? 
  5. Samba: Dance it out! OK, you don’t have to jitterbug down the aisle, but when the music starts, let your body sway to the rhythm. 
  6. Switch: Get back to doing things by hand rather than having a machine do them for you. 

It’s amazing how these small, seemingly insignificant choices we make each day can help us burn a few-hundred extra calories and prepare the body for more intense movement. The goal is to walk for at least 30 minutes per day to burn fat, improve heart and bone health and potentially reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even some cancers, so get moving! 

Jacque McShane, PharmD, is a certified health, life and weight loss coach. Reach her at 

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