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.
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.
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.
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.