Myth #5: “Working out” requires sweating it out at the gym

When we talk about “working out” that always seems to conjure up images of big exercise machines in sterile workout facilities. But the truth is, the mode of exercise is not nearly as important as the intensity of exercise when it comes to improving your fitness. See, your body doesn’t know or care whether you’re on a treadmill, acycling-pixabay basketball court or the top of a mountain…as long as your heart rate is up, you’re improving your aerobic fitness and reaping all the killer benefits of exercise.

This means we need to transform the way we think about “working out.” It doesn’t have to be in a gym or even planned. Weight lifted doesn’t have to be traditional dumbbells/bars – hay bales or heavy hoses are just as effective. And you don’t have to sweat a truckload in order for it to “count” (in a later post I’ll explain why sweating is not a good indicator of exercise intensity).

Try to think of things you might do that are physically challenging enough to increase your heart rate and make you breath hard. Let’s say a project you’re working on at your house requires a lot of heavy lifting or continually climbing up and down stairs. Or how about a drill on duty, or a sport you play off duty? It’s up to you to decide whether the activity is challenging enough to be considered exercise and could “count” as a workout (last week I discussed how to know if an activity is really exercise). But remember, your body doesn’t discriminate against hard work that’s outside of a workout facility…it only cares about effort! Regardless of your physical surroundings, a good effort will improve fitness.

For some of you, that means you can ditch the treadmill workout you so dread and go do something else that you enjoy. For more explanation about that, read this post.

Is there anything you do that you will now count as your workout since you’ve gained this knowledge? Let us know in the comments!

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By | 2018-06-01T07:43:32+00:00 November 6th, 2013|Uncategorized|4 Comments

About the Author:

Dr. Karlie Moore has a PhD in Exercise Science and Nutrition and specializes in firefighter health. She has conducted fitness testing on hundreds of firefighters and has created the most comprehensive online wellness program for fire departments called the FitCulture program. Dr. Moore is also married to a firefighter and so understands their lifestyle and the health challenges associated with it.


  1. Greg Friese November 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    I try as often as possible to get out of the stands and onto the field to help coach my kid’s sports teams. I didn’t play a lot of the sports I am helping coach, but youth sports organizations always need more adults to help organize the kids, reinforce keep concepts, keep them moving, and keep them having fun. It might not be a “work-out” for me to warm-up the goalie, but its sure better for my heart than sitting in a chair on the sidelines.

    • Karlie November 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm

      I love this Greg, great example! If it doesn’t have your heart rate up then perhaps it can’t count as your “workout” for the day, but it sure is physical activity and that’s amazing for your health and waistline too. I’m assuming, since you brought that up, that you read last week’s post about the difference between physical activity and exercise 🙂

  2. Patricia Friedrich June 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Good reminder to get moving. Hard to do in 105 heat, thanks for reminder.

  3. Anonymous June 7, 2018 at 1:40 am

    I know this doesn’t count as a work out, but I think it’ll still get a few smiles.
    I was window shopping in a woodworking store and noticed my heart rate was up around 90 BPM. My breath was taken away a bit too, but like I said, I don’t think it counts. Too bad.

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