fitness-1In a review that appeared in the International Journal of Obesity, a group of scientists recently suggested that Americans are simply spending too much time talking about how our toxic food environment and our couch potato ways are making us obese. Perhaps there are other reasons that we’re plumping up, they proposed.

Among the alternate obesity theories: We’re not sleeping enough; air pollution messes up our metabolism; we’ve adapted to air conditioning – so we don’t need to regulate our internal temperatures by ramping up our metabolic rates (thus, burning more calories). All that may be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that eating right and exercising are the ways to manage your weight.

To that end, try incorporating some of these excellent ways to exercise without even knowing it. You may not think of the activities below as exercise – but at the end of the day, all of these strategies burn calories and get your heart rate up.

1. Wash your car

Burn calories and make your car look beautiful as you wash, dry and get it (and you) buff. Bonus points for waxing it too!

2. Do your own yard work.

Tell the teenage kid from down the street that you’ll mow your own lawn – and pay him to make some iced tea instead. While you’re at it, weed the vegetable garden and toss some new mulch around the perennials out front. You’ll score some exercise and a great-looking yard.

3. Reinstate the ‘water cooler’ at work.

Everyone needs a periodic work break, but instead of emailing witty quips to your buddy in the next office, walk to the water cooler to dish about the latest episode of your favorite TV show. Sure, it’s not many steps, but they all add up.

4. Get started on that home-improvement project.

Painting, hammering, hoisting – it’s all exercise (some of it moderate to vigorous, we’d say). And don’t discount all the walking that you’ll do as you wander around the big home-improvement warehouse looking for that specific hinge (or someone who can help you find it).

5. Dog sit. For a puppy, ideally.

You won’t be able to sit on the couch for long – unless you don’t care about your carpet – or your shoes. Know anyone with a dog? Ask if they’ll be traveling, sans pet. You’ll sneak in a week’s worth of exercise – and probably earn yourself a nice bottle of wine upon their return.

6. Eat al fresco.

Pack a picnic – one that requires schlepping a big ice-filled cooler across a field or a park. Bring a ball or a Frisbee for after-eating activities, and you’ll start burning your picnic off before you even get home. And choose your friends carefully; the activity-obsessed ones who love to kick a soccer ball around will help you get off the blanket and move it with them.

EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.