Published On: Thu, Nov 9th, 2023

How to make cleaning the house a better workout

How to make cleaning the house a better workout
How to make cleaning the house a better workout


Squeezing in time for a Peloton ride or a trip to the yoga studio isn’t always possible. But oftentimes, the reasons we have to forgo those things can actually count as exercise — like when you have to skip the gym to clean the house.

Stephanie Thomas, a certified personal trainer based in Annapolis, notes how demanding a top-to-bottom cleaning session can be. “The repetitive motion really adds up,” she says. Everything from changing the sheets to carrying a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs burns calories and works muscles. According to Healthline, a website dedicated to health and wellness information, vacuuming for a half-hour burns around 80 calories for an average 175-pound person. And that number doesn’t take into account what the push and pull of the machine does for the muscles in your shoulders, arms and core.

To the health and wellness community, this type of unintentional exercise qualifies as NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Pioneered by James A. Levin at the Mayo Clinic, NEAT refers to the calories expended while doing activities that are simply a part of daily life. It’s the workout you get from carrying a heavy suitcase up the stairs or chasing your kid around the playground.

Jak Wawrzyniak, founder of Intrinsic Athlete, a personal training company in Vancouver, B.C., says that while “the most popular example of NEAT is getting 10,000 steps per day, all other forms of NEAT can be an adequate calorie output each day for most people to stay generally healthy.” Of course, Wawrzyniak adds, this comes with an asterisk: “No matter what the desired outcomes of exercise, whether NEAT or the world’s hardest workout, the individual must have a properly aligned diet with their goals.”

When it comes to tidying up your home, fitness experts say there are two distinct ways to sweat more as you sweep: Add gym-worthy exercises into your routine, or just be more deliberate about the way you tackle the chores themselves.

Duston Morris, a professor of health promotion and health behavior at Maryland University of Integrative Health, says with either approach, frequency is crucial: “If you’re using house cleaning as a way to increase movement and physical activity, do 20 to 30 minutes each day.” Morris also advises switching up the tasks you perform for better muscular balance: “Focus on laundry and dusting one day, bathrooms the next, and vacuuming and sweeping on other days.”

Ready to ramp up the calorie-burn of your household chores? Here’s how.




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