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Want to be more active but don’t want to work out more? Here’s how to burn more calories without adding a dedicated workout to your day!

Hi there! My name is Chantal. I’m a certified personal trainer and mama of two living in the Pacific Northwest. Welcome!

I want to start off by saying that I am NOT advocating a sedentary lifestyle by saying that you can burn extra calories without exercising. That is not at all what we’re doing here! So let’s just get that out of the way.

While I do want to talk about how to be more active (without actually working out), you’ll definitely need to go somewhere else if you want to hear about how to be lazy.

Sorry, not sorry.

The fact is that even with exercise, most people are simply not moving throughout their day-to-day lives. A lot of people get into a great exercise routine but still don’t lose a lot of weight because they are sedentary the rest of the day. 

A lot of people kill it at big cardio sessions regularly just to find that after awhile, it’s just not enough to continue losing weight. The real problems are food and lack of movement overall. 

These modern times have just made it way too easy on us humans!

how to burn more calories throughout the day

We are doing less ourselves in general. (Hello cleaning lady, landscaper, food delivery, grocery pickup…I could go on.) We just aren’t moving the way our bodies were meant to.

We have can have food, shows, and everything we could need quickly and easily, and all of that “would-be” effort means we are burning less calories. Hence this post about how to burn more calories all day, every day!

There is no arguing with me on this topic – we are a lazy society as a whole. We all need to move more!

I am a huge advocate for the “old ways” of life because of this. (See my homesteading and simple living blog posts if you don’t believe me!) I am hugely attracted to living and moving in ways that seemingly, only our grandparents could remember. (Heck, even the 90’s were better than this as far as obesity rates and doing more ourselves.)

Anyway, let’s move on before I take deep-dive into what’s wrong with society. That’s not what I’m here for (but if you ask I’ll tell you)!

The thing is, there are SO many things each of us could be doing to move more and be more active. We have the power to change our health with these little decisions, but they require habit-building.

That’s the hard part for a lot of people. Trust me, I get it. For every healthy habit I have, there are two bad ones that I have to be very intentional about breaking. It’s a whole thing. 

Health is an ongoing thing! It requires ongoing, conscious effort and action. 

Thank goodness there are so many little opportunities to add movement to our days, or I’d be in big trouble. I fall prey to modern amenities and technology too. 

I think it’s perfectly normal to go through cycles where we fall off the wagon. The difference between people who are in good health versus those who aren’t is that some people choose to get back at it, and others just give up.

(But you and I aren’t those people, are we? Despite the trouble, we keep getting back at it!

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis (NEAT)

Did I mention that I’m a certified personal trainer? If not, here’s where the nerding out begins, so beware. 

NEAT is the energy that our bodies expend to do anything and everything except for exercise.  This includes standing, sleeping, blinking, walking, getting in and out of a car, bodily functions, etc. 

According to this article (from the same organization with which I am certified), these types of activities are arguably more valuable than exercise when looking at health overall. 

Wait, what?

Yep, you read that right. While exercise has many proven benefits (heart health, lung health, etc.), it isn’t going to make you magically healthy if you are sedentary the rest of the day.

It’s kind of like killing your workouts every day but also overeating unhealthy foods daily. It just doesn’t balance out. You can exercise daily but still be overweight and unhealthy. (Just ask me. I exercise more than most people I know, but I still carry around extra weight.)

The point is that unless you increase your NEAT (overall movement from non-exercise activity) on a daily basis, you may not lose weight. You may never be healthy unless your lifestyle as a whole changes. 

The answer is more movement and more burning of calories!

So, how do you burn more calories every day? 

And then, how do you know if you’re burning more each day? 

I have a few tips and tricks for keeping track of this and staying motivated, but I just share my best one for now. 

Get yourself an activity tracker and find out your BMR. (Basal Metabolic Rate)

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories needed to sustain your body based on minimal activity. (In other words, the amount of energy that your body needs just to function.) This number is different for everyone because bigger bodies need more energy to operate and metabolisms simply vary.

You can get a rough estimate of your BMR online, but you can also use some activity trackers to get a more accurate amount. The purpose of knowing this number as a caloric value is that you can use that number as a base for your movement goals and caloric needs. 

You need to eat at or below your basal metabolic rate in order to lose weight. But if you burn more calories (most people do, unless they are very sedentary), you may need to eat more. 

Here’s an example based on my BMR…

My basal metabolic rate is just under 1500 calories. That means that if all I did was lay around all day, I would burn 1500 calories just to stay alive. So to sustain my weight, I’d need to eat that many calories. 

To lose weight, I’d need to either eat less or move more!

I used my Apple Watch to get a more accurate idea of what I actually burn on a regular day (without exercise) and it’s actually like 1800 calories. That’s with just getting up, taking my daughter to school, laundry, dishes, etc. 

So, my NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is 300 calories. Hypothetically, I should be able to lose weight from the extra movement from regular daily activities alone. 300 calories is the equivalent to about 30 minutes of exercise!

Hopefully by now, you can see the value of all that extra little movement! 

Moving on!

Really quickly, let me say that I fully believe that weight loss is emotional and psychological.

For that reason, I have shared and explored so many things on my journey to becoming a personal trainer. (While also trying to lose my own weight.) If you could use some more resources or a fresh perspective on health, check out these other blog posts: 

Alright then, let’s get to it! Below are as many ideas on how to burn more calories as I could think of!

how to burn more calories without working out

How To Burn More Calories (Without Working Out)

1. Fire your housekeeper.

Okay, first of all, if you have a housekeeper, consider me jealous. But I am serious about this one. (Maybe you could compromise and drop your frequency if you’re not totally ready to give up help.) 

I have been a homemaker for nearly 8 years, and I swear that the only reason I’m not extremely unhealthy is because I am cooking and cleaning for several hours per day. Even on days that I don’t exercise, I manage to burn an extra 300+ calories just from chores!

2. Mow your own lawn. 

Not a lot of people have groundskeepers or people who mow their lawns, but a lot of people do have ride-on lawn mowers, so that’s another problem. Mowing your own lawn can be fun, and it can also be a serious workout. If you’re into counting steps, it’s also a good one for getting you to that coveted 10,000 steps!

3. Skip the robot vacuum. 

Okay, I see the appeal here, I do. I would love to have clean floors 100% of the time. But I recognize that sweeping and moping my own floors contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle, so I keep my regular vacuum and broom. 

4. Take the stairs. 

This one seems pretty obvious, but I think we still forget to do it when given the option. While it’s easy enough in public situations, I also make a point to go up my own staircase at home. (The kids sleep upstairs, but I don’t have a reason to go up there unless I am checking on them or cleaning.) 

Going up stairs uses muscles differently than just walking and it can help you add NEAT easily!

5. Start a garden. 

Gardening is one my favorite pastimes, but it can also be a great calorie burner. It can also be great for building muscle! The best part is that it can be easy to forget you’re even moving when you get immersed in a garden project. 

6. Park your car further away. 

Another semi-obvious one, but we still forget to do it. When you go literally anywhere, just park a few more spaces away from the entrance. You won’t have a choice but to walk a little further going in and coming back!

7. Turn household chores into mini-workouts. 

While it might take a little longer, consider adding a little more movement into your regular chores. Folding laundry? Fold five items, then do five push-ups. Repeat! 

If you need a little more inspiration or direction, check out my laundry day workout here. It’s perfect for beginners!

8. Walk to the store or other places when possible. 

No-brainer, but it can be hard to get this motivated. (Mostly because then you have no choice but to walk back!)

9. Stand up more often. 

They say that sitting is the new smoking! (It’s bad for circulation, your heart, calorie burns, etc.)

If you have an Apple watch, there’s a feature that can make this really easy by reminding you to get up and walk around every hour. If you don’t have one, it’s as easy setting some reminders on your phone! I’m sure they even have apps for that!

10. Get on a daily cleaning schedule. 

Yep, back to the cleaning. There are just so many cleaning tasks that can really burn calories – sweeping, mopping, scrubbing floors, changing bed sheets, vacuuming, and more!

The trick is to get into the habit of doing them more frequently on a regular basis. The habits you form with cleaning will also help you with burning more calories every day. 

11. Do the dishes after dinner. 

After dinner, it can be really tempting to just go lay down or watch a show on the couch. I get it, I am right there with you! 

But instead of heading straight for the couch/bed, try lasting a little longer out of bed. The best way for me to do this is to put my mind to something productive. Doing the dishes is beneficial because it helps set up the next day, too! Waking up to a clean kitchen can set the tone for a more productive day.

12. Stay up a little longer. 

Even when you are sitting around, you burn more calories than when you are laying or sleeping. That’s because fidgeting or just being upright uses more energy. So stay up a little longer – whether it be reading, playing with your kids, folding laundry, etc.

Every little bit counts!

13. Take your dog for more walks. 

Or take yourself for more walks! Not only does it aid digestion and help to keep muscles strong, it burns calories! Plus, you’ll have a happy pup. 

14. Start riding a bike. 

Bike riding can be really fun and not feel like a big chore when the weather is nice. If you have the means, get yourself a bike. Start with short rides on nice days, and then work into the habit of longer rides more often.

15. Try new hobbies. 

Not only will it be fun, but you could find something you really enjoy and be healthier for it! Try one of my healthy hobby suggestions and you’ll be burning more calories while having fun!

16. Start a DIY-project. 

Even just hand movements burn calories. Literally every small movement that your body makes will use energy, so why not try some DIY? From crochet to refurbishing furniture or building a picture frame, anything will work. 

Plus, it can be something to keep you off the couch longer. 

17. Do your own grocery shopping. 

Have you gotten into grocery pick-up lately? I got into it for awhile, but I realized that I lose a lot of steps/movement when I skip shopping myself! (Later we moved to a town that has NO grocery pick-up or delivery whatsoever, so we I don’t have a choice but to do my own shopping now.)

I know that grocery shopping can be a pain if you’re in a hurry or have little people with you, but it is a true calorie burner if you’re willing to endure it!

18. Do your housework or work tasks in more trips.

It can seem counter-intuitive, but if your top priority is health, it might not be. Take more trips up the stairs to put laundry away. Tidy up “stuff” in less armfuls and go back for more. Hopefully you get the idea – just be slightly less efficient. LOL.

19. Hop on your treadmill or stationary bike for 5 minutes here and there. 

There’s this idea out there that you have to exercise for at least 20 minutes at a time for it to be effective. But that’s not true! 

Most fitness professionals consider a work out to be 20 minutes or more because that’s about how long it takes to tap into a body’s fat stores. (Before that, you’ll burn energy from food / ATPs.)

Hopefully if you read my post entirely, you know that the movement you make throughout your day is arguably more important than exercise. (Assuming you’re choosing to do only one and not both.) Do NOT assume that five minutes of walking or biking will not help you! 

Five minutes = approximately 50 calories. Do it twice per day or several times per week, and it will surely add up!

20. Shop at bigger stores. 

Have you ever walked around Walmart or Costco/Sam’s Club and been totally exhausted by the end of it? I have! I have even done Costco trips that yielded 11,000 steps in just an hour or so! 

Why? Simply because those types of stores are so dang big that you have to walk to TON just to find what you need! So, shop at bigger stores! Even if you aren’t spending money, you can burn calories and kill time while you’re bored by walking the aisles of big stores. (Can you tell I’m from a small town where there was nothing to do?)

That’s it friends! Now you are armed with ideas on how to burn more calories each and every day!

Do you have other suggestions on the topic of how to burn more calories? Feel free to leave them below!

-Chantal