Spring Cleaning, Burn Calories While You Clean (cont.)

Not everyone is convinced that chores will do much to help you shape up. Gabe Mirkin, MD, the former radio talk-show health expert, cites a British study that showed many women who did heavy housework and slow walking were unfit and overweight, while those who walked 2.5 hours a week were slimmer.

But another study, at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, found that participants who fit more physical activity into their daily routines made long-term fitness gains similar to those made by people who did traditional gym exercises like stair-climbing and jogging.

For its part, the American Heart Association counts housework as moderate exercise. "You'd have to do four hours a day of it if you were training for a marathon," jokes Press.

No one disputes that doing chores can burn calories. How many you burn will depend on your fitness level, your weight, and the time you spend cleaning or gardening. But here are some estimates, based on a person weighing 150 pounds doing 30 minutes of chores:

  • General cleaning: 127 calories
  • Cooking: 92 calories
  • Trimming shrubs: 157 calories
  • Laundry: 133 calories
  • Vacuuming: 123 calories

Compare these counts with walking for 30 minutes (at 3 mph), which burns 155 calories.

While even the most intensely calorie-burning chores can't replace structured exercise completely, every little bit of activity helps. And along with the fitness benefits come added dividends: A cleaner house, a beautiful yard, and a sense of satisfaction.

"In the garden or house you can see the fruits of your labors immediately," Mandel says, "That's nice. And gardeners lose track of time. People in the gym hardly ever do."

Originally published April 1, 2004
Medically updated March 2006.

SOURCES: Joel Press, MD, physiatrist, Center for Spine, Sports, and Occupational Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Debbie Mandel, MA, trainer; author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul. Mary Findley, owner, Mary Moppins, Eugene, Ore. DrMirkin.com. American Heart Association. WebMD Public Information from the National Institutes of Health: "Simple Lifestyle Changes Boost Physical Activity/Cardiovascular Health," published Jan. 26, 1999. WebMD Calorie Counter tool.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/14/2005 11:35:43 PM