The Housework Workout

Too busy cleaning house to go jogging? Relax -- you can get in a workout even as you do your everyday chores.
The House work Work out

You probably know that the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week to maintain good health. But did you know that any kind of physical activity counts, including housework?

Believe it or not, dusting, sweeping, mopping, making beds and carrying laundry all add up to a lot of "incidental activity" — the type some health experts view as potentially more beneficial than "official" workouts, such as calisthenics.

The reasoning: You are more likely to stick with moderate-intensity as opposed to high-intensity activity over a lifetime. And it's physical activity over the long term that helps maintain a healthy weight.

Whittle (Fat) While You Clean
Depending on your weight and how hard you work, you can burn up to 250 calories an hour doing housework, and even more when gardening or shoveling snow.

Another benefit of housecleaning is that it exercises all the major muscle groups. Just consider the wide range of movements — walking, stretching, bending, lifting — involved in activities like making beds, vacuuming, washing windows, putting away dishes and taking out the trash.

Maximum Burn, Shiny Home
Of course, the more movement you do, the better. So try these tips to increase the intensity and duration of your "housework-out":

  • Don't stand idly by until the microwave dings or the water boils. Do squats and push-ups on the floor or against the wall, or simply march in place. It may sound silly and the kids might laugh, but you'll have the last laugh when you're toned and trim.

  • Shun labor-saving devices. Chop vegetables manually rather than with a food processor; use a manual instead of an electric can opener; beat eggs and cream with a whisk, not an electric mixer; wash and dry dishes by hand.

  • Who needs a Stairmaster when you have the real thing? Schedule chores to maximize the number of times you go up and down the stairs. Do dishes downstairs, then make beds upstairs, then head back downstairs to tackle the bathroom, and go back upstairs again to dust. Carry dirty clothes to the laundry; don't use the chute. All that climbing boosts your cardiovascular fitness and strengthens your leg muscles.

  • Can the dumbbells. You don't need dumbbells to work out with weights; raising and lowering food cans while reorganizing your pantry or cabinets will strengthen your arm and back muscles.

  • Put on some energizing music and dance to the beat while you work. It will help you sweep faster and scrub harder. Remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight and knees flexed to take the strain off your back. Each time you pass a mirror, you can smile knowing that extra elbow grease is whittling your waist while it shines up your home.

  • Make shopping an exercise opportunity. When selecting groceries, stretch for that elusive package on the top shelf rather than grabbing what's closest. Unpacking the car and putting away groceries is a lifting-and-stretching session in itself. And if you can walk to the store and carry your purchases home, so much the better. If not, try parking farther from the store to get in some extra exercise.

Housework shouldn't be your only form of exercise, but it can definitely supplement your other workouts and help you keep the weight off.

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