FORGET the latest high-intensity fitness fad - doing housework, carrying groceries and even climbing stairs can be just as effective, experts say.
According to a University of Sydney study conducted by six professors and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, many daily tasks can actually be classified as high-intensity incidental physical activities (HIIPA).
High-intensity interval training - short, sharp bursts of activity that use up at least six times as much energy as resting - is all the rage in gyms and fitness classes.
But unstructured activities such as walking, house chores and climbing stairs, can have the same health benefits the study concluded.
"The length of each incidental PA bout can vary from a 'short and sweet' few seconds, such as climbing a few flights of stairs three to four times a day, to several minutes or even hours of active commuting, housework or shopping," the study read. "Besides meeting recommended targets, incidental PA offers opportunities for brief episodes of vigorous intensity PA which, compared with moderate intensity, provides superior 'per time unit' health benefits."
Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis said bringing the principles of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into everyday life could be the key to helping unfit and overweight people get the exercise they need to improve their health.
"Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing, even for a few seconds, has great promise for health," he told Perth Now.
The researchers said people could get significant health benefits from doing three to five energetic daily tasks totalling as little as five to 10 minutes a day, most days of the week.
For a typical, middle-aged Australian woman, 60 per cent of whom are overweight and or unfit, activities such as running and playing with children at their pace, walking uphill or riding home from work are high intensity.
"The beauty of HIIPA and the idea of using activities we are already doing as part of everyday life is that it is much more realistic and achievable," Professor Stamatakis told the publication.
"Other practical advantages are nil costs, no need for equipment and no concerns about a lack of skill or fitness."
According to a Harvard Health Publishing study, walking at 5.6km per hour (17 minutes) will help you burn 178 calories (if you weigh roughly 83kg), while 30 minutes of gardening will help you shed 200 calories.
Mowing the lawn and planting trees will help you lose 200 calories (based on 30 minutes), while playing with kids can shed 178 calories and carrying boxes 311 calories - all based on a rough weight of 83kg.