DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Get in shape. I bet that was a New Year's resolution for many of you. Well, to help get you motivated, we have two stories now from NPR's Life Kit. It's a new collection of audio guides to help you get it together in all sorts of ways. We start with NPR's Maria Godoy.
MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: I used to really hate exercise. A year and a half ago, I was almost completely sedentary. I would get, like, winded just going up the stairs. And I'm not going to tell you how much I used to weigh, but it wasn't healthy. But these days, I love working out. I actually crave it. The hard part was just getting started, but then I came across this bit of research.
MICHELLE SEGAR: Basically, all movement counts, and anything is better than nothing.
GODOY: That's Michelle Segar. She's a sport and health psychologist at the University of Michigan. She studies how we sustain healthy behaviors. And she says if you want to start an exercise habit, reframe what you think of as exercise.
SEGAR: I've been astounded that even up until today, very educated people don't know, don't believe that walking actually counts as valid exercise.
GODOY: That was a big hang-up for me. I had all these preconceived notions about what kind of exercise was worth doing. If I didn't get sweaty and do it for at least a half-hour why bother? But science tells us so much counts as moderate exercise. There's actually a very geeky but cool resource called the Compendium of Physical Activities. It's used by researchers to compare apples and oranges when it comes to exercise. And it uses a value called a MET, or metabolic equivalent.
LORETTA DIPIETRO: Just sitting doing nothing is a MET value of 1, right? You're working at your resting metabolic rate.
GODOY: That's Loretta DiPietro. She's an exercise research scientist at George Washington University.
DIPIETRO: An activity that is 2 METs means it makes you work at twice your resting metabolic rate. So getting up and walking across the room is about 2 METs.
GODOY: DiPietro says the compendium lists the MET values for all kinds of activities - everything from mopping - that's about 3 1/2 METs - all the way to line dancing, which can be almost 8 METs.
DIPIETRO: Having sex - that's in there.
GODOY: It is?
DIPIETRO: Oh, yes.
DIPIETRO: Yes. You've not looked thoroughly through the compendium.
GODOY: But the magic number, what qualifies as moderate activity - that's at least 3 METs. Lots of regular activities do that. Climb the stairs slowly, and it's 4 METs. Climb them quickly, and it's nearly 9 METs, which means you're burning nearly nine times as many calories as you would be just sitting. Even vacuuming counts if you do it with gusto. And researchers now know these little movements add up.
DIPIETRO: Think of it like putting pennies in a piggy bank. And, you know, if you just put three pennies in, you may think, oh, this doesn't add up to much. But at the end of the month, it does indeed.
GODOY: So if you've been sedentary, adding movements throughout your day is a good place to start an exercise habit. I started off with short walks and taking the stairs. As that got easier, I added harder workouts. These days, I even take spin class. But the point is, you've got to start somewhere. Maria Godoy, NPR News.