K – Kicking it Old School

The other day I went to the gym after work.  It wasn’t a particularly bad day at work.  And the afternoon was beautiful on my drive over to the gym.  The sun was out, there was a few fluffy clouds scattered across the crystal blue skies, the light breeze was warm and felt good against my face. I guess it must have been about 5 o’clock when I arrived at the parking lot.  I was surprised to find quite a few cars in the gym parking lot, but it was not super-crowded. There were parking spaces, but they were kind of far away.  So…I spent the next 5 minutes looking for a closer parking space, until I realized the stupidity of it all. 

I had come to the gym to burn off calories, and I was wasting time waiting for a closer parking space to open up, so…..I didn’t have to walk so far from the parking lot to the gym entrance. What the heck? I literally stopped in my car, in the middle of the parking lot and thought about how ridiculously stupid that was. It made no sense.

And because of all this, I started thinking about all the things we have and do nowadays that saves us from making those extra steps, things we didn’t have back when I was a kid, back when the media wasn’t constantly barraging us with news stories about the epidemic of obesity. When there wasn’t a gym on every corner.  Back when I was a kid, there were no gyms, no Ellipticals, no Stairmasters, no yoga pants.

Back when I was a kid, we walked everywhere.  We walked to the stores, we walked back from the stores, carrying our groceries.  People were out on the streets walking to and from work.  Kids rode their bikes to their friends’ houses. They walked to school, they walked to their piano lessons and their ballet lessons.  We walked to the movie theater.  When we wanted to go to the stores, we either walked to the train, and took the train into downtown Chicago, or we rode our bikes from Hyde Park, along the lake shore down to Michigan Avenue – and then we rode back with our purchases.

harper theater uchicago.edu

When me and my best friend wanted ice cream, we had to walk at least a mile and a half to the closet Baskin and Robbins to get a cup of ice cream – a scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip and a scoop of Jamoca. And then we would walk slowly back, eating our ice cream.  Our little neighborhood, surrounding the University of Chicago, didn’t allow any franchises, so we always had to walk to the next neighborhood over.  I remember when the first McDonalds opened up, in the next neighborhood over, we all trekked over there to sample the fries.  Back then, the fries didn’t taste like chemicals, they were so good.

We couldn’t text our friends to see where they were, or Facetime them, of Skype them.  We had to get on our bikes and go looking for them, if we couldn’t reach them by phone. We wrote letters, put a stamp on them, and then walked to the post-office or mailbox to send them off.

bikes - biketempe.org

When I was a kid, people raked and moved their own lawns, planted their own flowers and cleaned their own houses.  Only the super-rich people had pools, and pool guys to clean their swimming pools.  Only the super-rich had a landscaping service come out and keep their gardens tidy.  I don’t remember any of my friends’ families having housekeepers, except for the people over in Kenwood, who lived in the big old mansions.

And you know what – we didn’t have an obesity epidemic.  It was very rare that we ever saw a morbidly obese person, or really any overweight people, and when we did, we couldn’t help but stare. 

There wasn’t aisles and aisles of reduced-fat, low carbohydrate foods in the grocery stores.  There weren’t any diet sodas, well except for Tab. We ate butter, and real sugar, and eggs, and meat, and we never worried about it too much.  We also ate a great deal of fresh fruits and vegetables, and everyone I knew, sat down to a home-cooked meal each night with their family.

After pondering all of this, I began thinking about how many calories were expended in all the things we used to do, such as gardening, mowing the lawn, walking and riding bikes, cleaning pools, cleaning the house and that kind of stuff.  So, I asked my trusty side kick Google (oh yeah – and we used to go the library to do research) and here are some of the answers I found.


Activity Calories Burned per Hour
Sleeping 46
Watching TV 56
Sitting at computer 102
Doing light household chores 95
Standing in line 100
Playing with your dog 115
Playing with kids (not rigorous) 120
Driving 120
Shopping 135
Eating 140
Bowling 145
Cooking 186
Dancing (slow/waltz/foxtrot) 224
Lifting weights (light) 224
Household chores 225
Walking 230
Golfing (riding in cart) 260
Softball 260
Gardening 300
Stretching 300
Mowing the lawn 410
Golfing (walking w/ bag) 410
Volleyball 340
Baseball 365
Walking (4.5 mph) 372
Dancing (disco/ballroom/square) 410
Hiking 440
Shoveling snow 446
Water skiing 446
Cross country skiing 500
Playing basketball 510
Tennis 520
Swimming 520
Soccer 520
Biking (fast pace) 530
Jumping rope 900
Running (7.5 mph) 940
Bicycling (> 20 mph) 1220

Source: July 2004 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter


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7 replies »

  1. Really interesting! I always wished that I would have lived in a less rural area so I could’ve ridden my bike all over and stuff when I was a kid (although who knows if my grandma would’ve let me).

    • I think about some of the things my best friend and I did, when we were growing up, and it is amazing to me we survived our childhoods – like riding around on our bikes in the middle of the night, barefoot, on the Southside of Chicago. Of course, we knew what streets not to cross, because things could become very dicey very quickly. My Mom sent us off to Michigan to live on a farm for several weeks, we had to learn to can corn, and milk cows. We had the best time out there, catching frogs, playing in the river, driving around in beat-up old pick-up trucks, getting toasted on homemade wine. We loved it!!!!!!

    • You are welcome Sheila. My husband bought me an Apple Watch, and it is interesting to see how many calories you can burn just doing normal stuff, like going to the nursery for plants, Home Depot, and tidying up. ANd I love to see how low I can get my heart rate. That’s so cool!!!!

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