I recently read about a study on fidgeting or as researchers refer to it—incidental physical activity. The study shows that the small collection of movements we often find inconsequential—like drumming your fingers, tapping your foot, or running after the bus—have significant health and cardiovascular benefits.

The more I thought about it the more I realized that many everyday activities that contribute to overall fitness turn out to be quite energy-efficient and environmentally friendly as well.

Take my commute for instance—every weekday I cram my way into a crowded subway car, often sprinting my way onto an incoming train. The walking back and forth from the subway, up stairs and escalators, and to and from work all represent incidental physical activity in a way sitting in gridlock traffic just can’t. And coincidentally relying on public transit helps reduce carbon emissions and my own personal carbon footprint.

I know public transit isn’t an option for everyone but I would wager that errands are a definite part of most people’s daily routine. Ever heard of Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT? It’s the idea that being more intentional about expending energy on daily activities can contribute to overall fitness just as regular exercise does.

And oftentimes, NEAT activities just so happen to be energy-efficient activities as well—for instance:

  • Washing the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher
  • Parking far away from the grocery store rather than searching for the nearest spot
  • Hanging up clothes by hand more frequently than using the clothes dryer
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Gardening, pulling weeds, and trimming trees
  • Cooking, chopping, and dicing in the kitchen rather than picking up carry-out
  • Walking/biking to perform as part of your commute or simply to run errands
  • Making simple home energy efficiency upgrades—like caulking air leaks.

I could go on, but I think you can see a trend—these movements help bolster your daily physical activity while simultaneously reducing your overall energy-consumption. Here, I’ve listed just a few ways energy-efficient behaviors complement other areas of your life but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What ways have you paired energy-efficient behaviors and fitness together?

Erin Pierce is an Energy Technology Program Specialist for the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy