It ALLLLLL counts.

That’s what I say when people ask if things like stretching, or gardening, or doing housework, or [insert other activity here]. If you’re moving your body, it counts.

I’ve written about the difference between activity and exercise before, as well come up with a list of a bajillion activities that count. Okay, maybe not a bajillion, but it was a lot.

But I still get people who ask if this or that counts as activity. And I even had one recently that questioned why it all counts when we all know it doesn’t really count.

So it prompted me to put into words why I think it all counts, and it’s an elaboration on yet another previous post about the trickle down effect of activity.

The Long Of It

The government’s standards of getting in X amount of physical activity are met only by a fraction of Americans. I say X amount because they have standards that can be confusing to some, and people don’t follow them anyways.

But for the sake of clarity, here they are in a nutshell:

  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. 
  • Some physical activity is better than none.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity
    • or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, 
    • or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. 
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Seems easy enough, right?

Except that not even a quarter of Americans meet those guidelines.

This means that if we’re choosing to move more, however it is – stretching, gardening, walking the dog – it’s doing something!

See that first guideline up there? “Move more and sit less” means if you’re moving, it counts.

The Short Of It

So that’s my simplified version of the guidelines – if you’re moving, it counts. Because if all else remains equal in your life, except you decide to add 30 minutes of house chores, or dancing, or raking leaves, you’re going to be making progress toward being healthier than your current state of health.

It really is that simple. Take what you’re doing now, and find ways to add more activity back into your day, and bam! Healthier.

Why It Works

When I was questioned about it not really counting so why would I count it, this is my response. Because it’s not the activity itself that is most important, it’s the belief about being more active that is the key.

Sure, stretching for 30 minutes may not give you the health benefits of a 30 minute run, but if you’re starting at zero, 30 minutes of stretching is a damn good way to start!

Odds are you won’t stretch for 30 minutes every single day forever! You’ll likely gain confidence and all the feel good stuff that comes with stretching and you’ll venture out into, say, a 30 minute walk. And maybe you begin alternating stretching and walking so you’re doing each every other day.

(sidenote: substitute whatever example is “easy” for you in place of stretching, and substitute whatever example is a goal for you in place of walking to make this relevant to you specifically)

Before you know it, you might be walking more days than you’re stretching, and the pattern continues as such.

Because when you feel how good it is to take care of your body – when you’re appreciating how capable your body actually is, and you begin to think, “I bet I COULD do that walk and it wouldn’t be terrible,” that’s why ALL ACTIVITY COUNTS.

We’re likely to begin with something that we perceive as easy and enjoyable because when it doesn’t suck, we’re more likely to continue doing it. But as we stay consistent and move our bodies, our measure of what sucks keeps moving to the right and we’re able to do (and even enjoy) more activities than when we started out. So yes, when in doubt, count it.

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