Housework’s a necessary evil, so use this dastardly duty to boost your metabolism. Exercise physiologist Kathleen Alleaume dishes the dirt.
You bend to vacuum and stretch to hang out the washing, so start thinking of housework as a fee-free gym class! With just a little extra oomph, you can maximise the amount of aerobic-health benefits and kilojoule-torching tricks that are hiding in housework.
Dust a move
Dusting isn’t all in the wrist! To put your upper body to work, make continuous circular movements with each arm for two minutes. Once you’re moving, do simultaneous calf raises: Start with your legs hip-width apart, rise up onto your toes and hold for three to five seconds, then slowly lower your heels; repeat 10 times. Do two to three sets, resting for up to a minute between sets.
The constant push–pull motion of vacuuming can be a great cardiovascular workout that really works your core and upper body. To ‘cardio-vac’ effectively, exaggerate your movements and frequently swap hands so you work both sides of your body. For a more intense workout, do lunges while you push. Try to hold each lunge for 20 seconds between steps. Aim for three sets of 10, then repeat with the other leg. Lunges not only tone and strengthen the lower body, but also help improve balance.
Get into step
If you usually stagger up the stairs with armfuls of clothes or toys, try taking one thing at a time, repeatedly, instead. Consider this: Climbing a flight of stairs three times a day burns 63kJ (15cal). Do that eight times a day, and you’ve earned yourself two small scoops of sorbet. Aside from strengthening the lower body, regular stair climbing is a low-impact activity that bolsters bone density, fosters aerobic fitness and lifts levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Dish up strength
Stop standing still at the sink, and step into a sudsy workout. To ramp up your heart rate, march in place for one minute, lift one leg straight out to the side, and then bring it back in again. (Continue with alternate leg lifts.) If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, unstack it with spirit: Squat to reach for a dish, wait for a second or two, and then slowly stand (and stretch, if possible) to put it in the cupboard. Ten to 20 squats will give your legs and bottom an excellent workout.
Pick up the pieces
Picking toys or clothes off the floor is a great excuse to work your lower body. Stand with feet hip-width apart, keeping your back straight and your heels on the floor. (Keep your upper back from tilting forwards.) Squat every time you pick something up.
Torch kilojoules with just 30 minutes of housework!
290kJ (69cal), or 1 small potato
Mowing the grass
840kJ (201cal), or 120g chicken (no skin)
840kJ (201cal), or 1 cup cooked pasta
Hanging out washing
504kJ (121cal), or 160ml wine
370kJ (89cal), or 250ml skim milk
260kJ (62cal), or 1 small banana
630kJ (151cal), or 2 thin slices wholegrain bread
Washing the car
483kJ (116cal), or 1 cup wheat-flake breakfast cereal
These calculations are based on a 68kg person.
Women who have children under the age of five do about four and a half hours of housework a day — the perfect opportunity to turn everyday chores into a total-body workout! (Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies)
Hit play on the stereo, pump up the volume and clean in time to the beat! Your favourite tunes will push you just that little bit harder.