Exercising isn’t just for the gym!
Ironically, your kitchen can be the perfect place to burn calories while you’re preparing your next meal.
With some lighthearted creativity and a few dashes of discipline and determination – you are exercising, after all! – you can turn almost any daily home activity, including making tonight’s dinner, into a fun workout regimen.
Cooking a meal and cleaning up afterwards can be practical opportunities for both low-impact and more intense physical activities, from stretching to strength training.
According to a 2021 article from Harvard Health Publishing, the consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School, 30 minutes of basic cooking burns 57 calories for someone who weighs 125 pounds, 70 calories for someone who weighs 155 pounds, and 84 calories for someone who weighs 185 pounds.
To put this leisurely form of activity into perspective, we can compare it to 30 minutes of a high-impact aerobics class, which burns 210 calories, 252 calories, or 294 calories respectfully, for individuals in the same weight brackets.
Even as a low-impact chore, cooking still burns a small number of calories, but you can blast away even more by adapting your time in the kitchen to a more physical routine.
If you’re trying to get fit, but for some reason or another can’t get to the gym or take a workout class, there are ways to transform cooking, baking, and cleaning into energizing exercises.
Here are five ways to stretch, strengthen, and burn more calories while cooking a meal or cleaning the kitchen!
How to Exercise in the Kitchen
1. Start with the Prep Steps
Just like prepping for a recipe, you also need to prep for a workout with some stretches!
The best way to stretch and tone in the kitchen is to make it a warmup exercise every time you get in there to cook or bake.
Start with basic warmup moves like a full-body stretch, touching your toes a few times, reaching above your head, leaning sideways on both sides, and doing some gentle head rolls.
Calf lifts can be done while you start dinner by simply lifting your heels off the floor, balancing on the balls of your feet. This simple move will help to tone and stretch your calves.
And your initial kitchen cleaning steps – just wiping down your kitchen counter before you start prepping – is a perfect chance to squeeze in some extra stretches as you lean over the counter.
2. Use or Lose the Kitchenware
If your recipe requires the use of pots, pans, casserole dishes, or other general kitchenware, now is the time to include some weight training!
Before setting out the equipment you need, hold something in one or both hands and do a few sets of squats and arm raises.
Challenge yourself by lifting heavier items, like large ceramic baking dishes, cast iron skillets, and Dutch ovens.
When you’re looking over what appliances you need for a certain recipe, opt to skip using certain kitchen gadgets in favor of a more active, hands-on approach.
For example, if you’re making mashed potatoes, mash them by hand with a potato masher rather than a potato ricer.
Need to whip heavy cream or egg whites? Put away the stand mixer or hand mixer, and whip them the good old-fashioned way by using a whisk… and a lot of muscle power!
Be sure to switch what hand you are dominantly using halfway through the mixing, mashing, or whipping process to get the most balanced activity.
For even more calorie-burning points, make tougher doughs like bread and cookie dough entirely by hand.
Kneading dough on the countertop and mixing a batch of cookie dough in a bowl with a spoon or spatula are heavily active processes – you’ll feel the burn soon enough!
And consider switching from your usual canned, frozen, or pre-sliced fruits and vegetables you buy at the store to prepping them fresh and whole at home.
Bigger, heavier, and hardier produce, like whole pineapple and assorted winter squash, will give you a hefty workout challenge as you are breaking them down.
3. Work Out While You Wait
A watched pot never boils – so don’t just stand there looking at it! Get moving!
There is often a point where you find yourself waiting for something to cook or set, whether you’re roasting and pureeing that fresh squash you prepped and chopped earlier – good for you! – slow-roasting prime rib, or chilling freshly spun ice cream in the freezer.
If there is nothing else you can think to do, other than sit on the couch and watch some television or read, here’s another opportunity for you to move.
Use any downtime in the kitchen as a chance to exercise.
You’ll feel empowered and energized after just a quick 5- or 10-set routine of 20 jumping jacks, mountain climbers, squats, push-ups, or sun salutations.
You can also bring a set of weights with you into the kitchen to use.
The number of reps and sets you choose is up to you – start small with respect for your own personal limits, and increase the count if you want to reach a certain goal.
You can also do modified push-ups by placing your hands on the edge of the kitchen counter and moving your upper body up and down.
And you can even start to clean as you cook!
When you have some wait time, consider doing a few cleaning chores in the kitchen.
Wiping down countertops, spraying and wiping windows, cleaning the refrigerator, or organizing the cupboards can all be simple ways to add some exercise while you wait for your food.
For longer cooking times – hello, slow cooker recipes! – you might consider pulling out the mop and bucket and washing the floor.
4. Throw a Delish Dance Party
Every workout routine needs the right playlist – get yours ready to go!
Music can be a great motivator to dance while you are in the kitchen, and it creates a playful and stress-free environment for you to actually enjoy making meals from scratch at home!
While solo dance parties are just fine, you can also extend the invite to your guests or family to get everyone moving and grooving.
Head into the kitchen with your favorite music playing for inspiration, possibly using the same mix that you’d use if you were actually working out at the gym.
Slow ballads are a great start to a warm up with some stretches and easygoing swaying. But switch to your favorite dance tunes when you’re buzzed with energy.
I’ve found that my personal best Lady Gaga dance moves happen when I’m making homemade ravioli!
Clear some space in your kitchen, turn up the music, invite others to join you like your spouse, and throw a killer dance party in the kitchen – no cover charge required.
Just leave the chef’s knife – with the blade facing away from you, please – on the countertop as you’re doing your cool air guitar moves.
5. Enforce a Calorie-Burning Cleanup
The cleanup after a meal gives you another chance to burn more calories, and body movement soon after eating may also help aid digestion of the amazing dinner you just made!
Pick up the pace as you put things back in the refrigerator and clear off the counters. Skip the dishwasher, and scrub the dishes by hand.
But if you’d really rather not clean the dishes by hand, don’t think you’re getting out of a workout.
No excuses! You can still get some exercise while you’re loading and unloading the dishwasher. Incorporate a squat or two for every item you load or take out to put away.
Sure, sure – it will take a little longer to load or unload the dishwasher this way, but adding some basic squats now means you don’t have to do a separate workout later!
Clean the counters and clean the floors, if you haven’t done so already while waiting for the food to cook.
And don’t forget to take out the garbage! If the trek to the trashcan involves steps, walk up and down them a few extra times, with or without the stinky garbage bag in your hand.
All of these activities get your body moving, and you get the reward of having a cleaner home.
Make It Work at Home
Don’t think you have the time to work out? Trying to save money by avoiding membership fees at a gym or club?
You’re not alone – and there are easy solutions to help you exercise regardless.
One of the most efficient ways to exercise for people with busy schedules is to make it an effortless part of a daily home routine.
And the kitchen can be one of the best places to add some basic workout moves while you’re cooking.
Take our advice the next time you’re struggling to get to the gym, and add a few of our recommendations while you’re baking or boiling, sauteing or searing, and cutting or cleaning.
One or all of these simple kitchen exercises will add up to a healthier and happier lifestyle.
What are your heart-pumping ideas for working out in the kitchen? How do you move and groove while you’re cooking? The comment section is open, so let’s talk!
Don’t think of cooking as a chore! Read more of our helpful articles to gain further appreciation of what you create in the kitchen, starting with these:
- How to Get a Picky Child to Eat Healthy
- 21 Common Cooking Mistakes and How to avoid Them
- 5 Steps to Create the Perfect Meat and Cheese Board
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos via Shutterstock. Originally published on September 19, 2014. Last updated on February 20, 2023.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
54 thoughts on “How to Exercise In The Kitchen and Burn Calories”
Love these tips! Incorporating exercises into kitchen chores is a good way to get both done easily. It can also be great if you blast your favorite music while doing so : ) No more boring exercises in my house!
I enjoyed reading this. I’m a firm believer in making the most of my time in the kitchen. With or without music. Altho’ music is preferred. I also love doing 3 sets of 15 – 20 diagonal push ups using the the counter, with bend overs and reach for the ceiling stretches. Its awesome!
Cooking and exercise are both hobbies I really enjoy and get a lot of satisfaction from doing. But there is just something about doing both at the same time that is too weird for me to take seriously. I think personally I would feel like a fool doing these exercises, but I guess if you’re time poor and need to fit in a little extra workout then it could be beneficial.
Haha, yeah! I don’t know why, but cooking and exercising at the same time feels odd and maybe even dangerous, but I love the idea of exercising and cleaning, and having fun (with loud music!) at the same time. I do like to crank up the music when I’m doing dishes, and trying to speed through them should be fun (and save me some time)! On the other hand, I generally do my dishes right after I’ve eaten, so, maybe that might not be a good time to ‘exercise’…
Exercising in the kitchen is great! Cooking and cleaning can already burn some extra callories, but put on some fun music and dance around a little while you do those boring chores and it becomes a fun way to burn some fat!
I’m pretty bad at exercising but I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I think you have come up with a pretty good list here of exercises that can be done while in the kitchen. I’m definitely taking down notes.
I think what I’m going to add for myself is a reminder to actually do the movements. I should probably put a note up, telling me to do this exercise while I’m doing this activity. I tend to be minimal in my movements, one of the reason that I have a hard time exercising. So, maybe a note attached to my dishwasher, saying “time for squats” or a list of exercises listed on a kitchen board while I’m cooking. I like ideas like this but I tend to forget them once I’m away from the computer. : )
By, the way, I love the images attached to this article. They really caught my eye, and they give the article a really happy vibe.
I like the idea of using old-fashioned cleaning as stealth exercise – that fits nicely with my attempt to try and reduce the amount of chemicals I use around the house as well as improving my fitness. I may try some of the more “proper” exercises next time I’m in the kitchen as well, as I’m struggling to lose baby weight at the moment and need all the help I can get. I did used to dance in the kitchen all the time, but I’ve got out of the habit of having music on while I’m cooking. Perhaps I should reinstate that; it might help keep the kids entertained as well (hopefully by joining in rather than just laughing at me!)
But – maybe this is just me – anyone else think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids when they saw the dancing in the kitchen picture? I used to watch it all the time as a kid, can’t think of the character’s name now, but she was dancing with the mop when the cute guy next door went past the window.
I know the intention behind this post is good, but I feel like some crucial things are being overlooked. First off there are plenty of dangers lurking around the kitchen. A little water boils over, it spills off the stove onto the ground, right were you are about to do some jumping jacks… How about those counter top push ups. Might seem like a good idea, but most kitchen counters these days are not installed correctly. A little push and you just bought yourself a new counter!
Like I said, I know this was written with the best of intentions. However a simple disclaimer of caution can go a long way.
I love multi tasking! Aside from cleaning the kitchen, you can have the time to actually sweat it out and do your body some favor with the stretching and squatting that you recommended. Thanks for putting up something like yhis. Although I must say, cleanig and doing this exercises wont make me feel that I am actually exercising, because is actually too much work on my kitchen. 🙂
I never thought about working out while working in the kitchen. What a great idea! There’s so much wasted time, like when you’re waiting for water to boil or the microwave to ding. Why not use that time to do a few counter push-ups or dishwasher squats?
My mother used to keep a little TV in her kitchen. I don’t think I need a TV, but I sure wish I had speakers for music now. I think there’s an old boombox in our garage I can get down. Boy, won’t my husband be surprised when he gets home tonight and finds me holding a private disco party in the kitchen. 😉
My kitchen scares me for this type of stuff. I think it’s a lot to small. Perhaps when I get my dream kitchen I will remember these and put them into play. I really do need the exercise, but for now I’m thinking I’d better keep it to my living room
Interesting post, and a little light hearted I feel.
It can be quite dangerous jumping around the kitchen! I get my exercise cleaning the kitchen, and all the other rooms in the house.
I’ve been trying to get in a little more exercise throughout the day and this sounds like a wonderful way to do it! I have all sorts of dance tracks on my Android phone that I use during my Zumba classes that are just perfect for bouncing around in the kitchen.
Thanks for the ideas!
You’ve just reminded me about the Zumba dance classes…oh why did i trash those dvds?!…i greatly regret…i guess they work well incorporating them whilst working in the kitchen…i cannot believe i traded those dvds for insanity dvds…oh well, enough of my rants!…i’ll just have to figure out what music will mellow well while doing the dishwasher squats 🙂
Awesome tips…laziness and procrastination has gotten me in a comfort zone for awhile, i just want to sit back, put my feet up and relax…not knowing am doing my own body a de-service, i kind of like the subtitle in the article on dishwasher squats…tell me to do something else and not that…but i must mellow my way somehow in to getting this body back to shape and fit…and save my pocket off the gym membership 🙂
Thanks for the tips! I use a Fitbit to track my activity and number of steps I take, it’s amazing how all the little things we do add up over the course of a day. It’s hard to believe that I can burn 250 calories and hour washing windows. I know what I’ll be doing when the weather warms up a little bit!
It can be hard to squeeze those workouts in, so incorporating it with your cleaning is a great idea. Some other things I like to do is grab some dumbbells while boiling the jug or heating something in the microwave. Also while cleaning listen to your favorite music and get into a good groove.
These tips are great! I would be self-conscious though, my SO always wander in the kitchen to grab snacks and drinks. I’ve been known to dance while doing the dishes though, but that’s just because I cannot help it to the singing!
I’ll have to try this though instead of just crashing on the couch when I have nothing else to actively do in the kitchen!
I remember when I was losing weight I found a thing online that listed various activities and cooking and cleaning was in there. You could type how many minutes you spent doing it and it would show how many calories were burned, it was pretty cool. These tips are great! I try and super clean the kitchen when I really get into it and just do it fast and break out in a good sweat. At least then I know I am burning some calories.
That is so cool, WorkAtHomeGal. Thanks for sharing it. I’m going to have to look for that. Heck, there’s probably an app for the phone that does it too, these days.
This article made me smile. The pictures are great too. I can just see myself now, dancing around the kitchen, doing squats and stretches.. hopefully, I don’t get tunnel vision and end up burning the dinner.
I can also see my husband peeking in to see what’s for supper and laughing his butt off at me. haha
This article has made housework seem like fun!
I’m forever trying to incorporate more exercise/movement into my day. Sitting at a desk for hours during the day, I try to get up and move around regularly. Because I work at home, I try to fit the daily household chores into my working day too. So, plenty of opportunity to get some much needed exercise at the same time as doing the cleaning!
Great tips – particularly the one about cleaning the floor on your hands and knees, burning so many calories!!
I was so happy to stumble across this article as I do exactly the same myself. Sometimes, you can’t leave the kitchen and have to stand there, waiting for a pot to boil or for something to turn brown. I use this time to get a few squats done. Cleaning can also be a great workout if you play some music and put a little “oomph” into your actions. Taking exercise is actually a lot simpler than we think!
Great post. Another thing you can do besides dancing in the kitchen, if you have a bit of free time, ditch the mop and scrub away with a rack! It isn’t as fun, but a really great arm workout, that will definetly get you sweating, I personally do that a few times everymonth, my arms turn into jelly for a few days after haha.
Best post ever!! I am already a kitchen dancer, but the rest of these are perfect to add to my kitchen exercise routine. I am a SAHM, and having only one income makes affording a gym difficult. Can’t wait to do these!
I think this is a great idea and you’ve come up with a great list here. However I’m not sure if it might cause a few problems in my kitchen if I started to exercise in it because its only really small and my kids are in and out of it all the time.
I have used scrubbing the kitchen floor to get some exercise – it worked out ok. This is a good article on using things you do every day to burn more calories.
yeah these are great tips. I think you forgot to mention one though. Every chef I’ve ever met has said to me “CLEAN WHILE YOU’RE COOKING!!” So yeah. Cleaning as you go not only reduces the mess but also is a good workout, as long as you don’t burn the food or something
Haha! what a funny read. I think cooking can be a great stress reliever also, which will help with general well-being. When it comes to exercise though, I prefer to go to the gym, that way, you’re going somewhere for a specific reason and not just incorporating it into your daily activities. Kitchen exercise, however, could be a great way for someone to get started on their journey to health!
Exercise and cooking come hand in hand! I usually rack up a sweat after cooking a three course meal and then having to wash the dishes and sweep the floors! Thank god for children. Haha, and they think they’re doing so much work by sweeping the floors. I definitely use a lot of muscle power trying to scrub stains and food off of pans and pots.
Children are best at the age where you can trick them Tom Sawyer style and convince them that work is “fun.” I’ve found that vacuuming is the easiest to do this with.
Nice! Every physical work you do can be guaranteed to burn calories and melt away those pesky love-handles. Some are just more effective than others, but even mental exercises like doing your taxes can can the desired effect. If you want to up your game even more though, I agree with the article that squats are just about the best exercise under the sun. It doesn’t just strengthen your quads and hams, it has an overall effect on the stability of your core and consequently, your posture. Just don’t overdo them when you’re cooking in the kitchen. Wobbly legs can be very dangerous when near hot surfaces.
You should see me in my kitchen, it’s like a full on show! I’m singing, dancing and thanking the crowd for their support! These are some great ideas, I love being in the kitchen and I spend so much time in there it would be foolish not to take advantage of it. I will definitely be stepping up my well choreographed routines and taking them up a gear. I might start stretching while I am in there too, thanks for an excellent and very entertaining post.
I try to fit exercise in anywhere I can. Sometimes my time is limited so this is a perfect combination of two necessary things. I especially like the dishwasher squats. However, I’d likely do them while manually washing the dishes.
This genuinely made me smile. Whenever I make banana bread, I usually use a mixer instead of a whisk. This is because my arms get tired within 30 seconds of mixing. I will definitely look into that. And I regularly did countertop push-ups before reading this!
This article reminded me of something that happened a while ago. My mom wanted me to wash the dishes this time. I said yes and did it my way. I’ve put my headphones on, blasted some ol’ Ray Charles and started washing the dishes. I’ve obviously enjoyed the song too much and dropped some plates on the floor. Mom never realized and I still haven’t told her as of today!
I think that there is a gap in the market for a book/app/DVD which gives you some dance or exercise moves to incorporate while cooking basic recipes. For example making a cake – first beat together the butter and sugar. Put some effort in. Bend those arms. Now do 5 squats before you add the eggs etc.
This article has inspired me to attempt some of my favourite recipes including some exercises as suggested. My pots and pans are in an overhead cupboard so when I take them down I can do some arm lifts with them first. Who needs a gym when you can use your kitchen!
Thank you for this great article! I spend so much time in the kitchen cooking for myself and my family but I have never thought of doing exercises while doing it. I have always wanted to get a gym membership but its so expensive so this is something that I will definitely benefit from. I’m going to start trying this out tomorrow!
It’s really quite easy to fit into the time you spend in the kitchen. Use times when you are standing about waiting for something to warm up or boil and just do what you can. It all adds up!
I already dance around a bit when I’m cooking, and I’ll definitely be incorporating some of these other tips. There are a few moves that might be dangerous in my kitchen, but I’d just leave those out and compensate with a few more reps of the safer ones haha. Cleaning up with vigor is definitely good exercise.
I find the idea of doing exercise in the kitchen quite interesting. It turns the kitchen into a more lively and fun place. I have been looking for ideas and ways to incorporate exercise into my routine. I think I am going to draw up an exercise chart and put it up in the kitchen.
Cartoon pics will also make it more appealing. Finding time to exercise can be a problem with the busy lives we lead, so this may just be the solution I have been looking for!
I can’t say I ever thought of using the kitchen for exercise. I already have a routine for some physical activity, but I might actually put some of these to use. It seems to me like your tips are a good way to stay limber and flexible and not tense up too much, which would definitely be a plus for me since I’m a weights kinda guy. Thanks for sharing~
I like the idea of doing things while having fun but this thing only could work for women who want to burn a little more calories without having to go to gym and all that bother, for men it doesn’t make much difference because they need to work harder than that actually improve their health.
As I was reading this it put a smile on my face. ” stealth exercise” is news to me. Since cleaning up the kitchen is one of my chores, I could see myself doing things like the calf lifts. I already listen to music as I clean so why not take it a step further and do a little dance?
Yesterday I was racking off the apple and mint wines I made earlier in the year and I commented to my husband that it was as good as a workout in an expensive gym! Glass demijohn jars with almost a gallon of wine in them are heavy and taking them from the airing cupboard to the kitchen and back involves getting up on a step stool, lifting jars down from the top shelf, downstairs to the kitchen, run the wine from each old jar into a fresh jar, than back up to the airing cupboard! Exercise indeed, and it’ll be worth it in May or June when they’re ready to drink on a fine sunny evening in the garden.
Wow, I love this! Such a fun idea. I love when I can workout while I don’t actually realize I’m working out…. It’s a great way to avoid having to dread going to the gym everyday. Thanks for sharing!
Why have I not been doing this before? It can be a challenge to motivate yourself enough to go to the gym or set time aside for a workout routine. Incorporating exercising into something you do every day, like cooking, is an easy way to get your heart pumping. You’re already up and cooking, why not do a few squats or push ups while you wait for something to boil or reduce?
This article made me giggle! However, we spend so much time in the kitchen, why not get some exercise out of it? I’m going to try these tonight. Hopefully the family doesn’t think I’ve gone crazy!
I love the idea of stealth exercise 🙂 I’ve done a little bit of that by incorporating squats and lunges into my daily chores, but you’ve got a bunch of ideas here I never would have thought of! You don’t realize how many calories you can burn going about your regular day, and I can totally see how picking up the pace a bit really starts to add up.
Plus, you’ll get a sparkling clean kitchen out of the deal 😛
Wow, these tips are really good! I’ve never thought that cleaning up your house could burn some calories – now I’ll be more than happy to scrub my floors, haha! Dancing while your cooking can be a bit dangerous but I love that a lot! It’s so fun and makes cooking even more enjoyable. These kind of tips really make you want to lose some weight since we notice that it doesn’t always have to be hard and done with breaking a lot of sweat.
Haha, this was a fun read! I have never even thought about combining exercising with cooking, but now it seems like a fun idea! Thank you for these suggestions, I’ll try them the next time I’m preparing a meal for the fanily. Sometimes it can be difficult to squeeze in a workout in your tight schedule, especially when you have to work and look after children. So this could really help you to keep fit without spending time to go for a run or to the gym!
It makes sense that just doing basic tasks at a faster pace will burn more calories. I have no problem mashing potatoes by hand, but stirring cookie dough is a different story! I don’t know if I could make a whole batch without a mixer. These are such great ideas, I hate going to the gym, but I can definitely do dishwasher squats and counter push ups. I’m going to have the cleanest kitchen on the planet!!
Yes! this is an amazing post! Sometimes there’s not much time to go to the gym, especially if you have people somehow depending on you, I actually had no idea that we burned that amount of calories just by being in the kitchen, but if you really think about it, it makes sense, that smashing potato thing? it should be considered an exercise!
My favorite one is definitely the dance on the kitchen, I love music and what a better way of exercising than having fun dancing in the kitchen?
Well whenever I am in the kitchen cooking a big meal, I do tend to get moving around a lot back and forth and throughout the house, and so that really does add up. That said, though, I really like some of the ideas here, and adding a little music for some inspiration to move a little more is a great idea, that I sometimes do. I did just get these new bluetooth speakers for the house that are perfect for this, so I might have to start implementing that a little more into my cooking routine. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you a lot for the tips, I defintely will show this to my sister and see if she finally stops being too lazy, she’s always sleeping and playing with her laptop, she really needs these advice. Thank you for sharing this!