4 ways to get a workout doing housework

You may be getting more exercise than you think. Here’s how your daily chores are helping you stay active and healthy

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Making time to be active

We all need 60 minutes of physical activity a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Though that may seem like a big commitment, working that time into your hectic schedule is much easier than it sounds. “Anything that you do that is active is going to increase your health benefits,” says Barbara Hagen, provincial coordinator for Alberta’s Be Fit for Life Network. That includes activities you do on a regular basis, like household chores. Here’s how some of your mundane housework can have a positive effect on your overall health.

As always, consult your doctor before attempting any new physical activity.

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Here’s proof that you don’t have to sign up for the gym in order to live an active lifestyle: Gardening activities such as digging or turning compost can burn as many as 400 calories an hour and work major muscle groups including the stomach, arms and legs. 

“Easy gardening would be [equivalent to] light walking, stretching, like yoga and volleyball,” says Hagen. Don’t have a garden? Raking leaves and shovelling snow are considered vigorous activities just like doing aerobics or going for a bike ride. (And yes, that means you have to warm up like you would for a workout if you want to avoid injuries.)

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Vacuuming gives you the same level of activity as hiking or using a rowing machine at the gym. Turn this chore into an even better workout by consciously extending and stretching your muscles to dust-bust those hard-to-reach places. Or, kick your cleaning routine up a notch by donning your headphones and vacuuming to a beat. “I really like to turn on music [while vacuuming],” says Hagen. “I find that it’s a great motivator for people and they can start to move to a beat, which is faster than what they would do if they were just doing the chore.”

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Washing dishes together

Washing dishes together

The next time you’re faced with the challenge of getting your partner to help with the dishes, entice him/her with this fact: Tackling household chores together can have a positive effect on your mental health. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, women whose husbands were involved in housework were less likely to report feeling distressed and unhappy than women whose husbands didn’t help out with household duties.

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Doing Laundry

Doing Laundry

Here’s a reason to stop dreading laundry day: This seemingly mundane job can give you a great workout. Consider how much physical work it takes to get your clothes clean. “You are lifting up laundry baskets and putting clothes into the machine, or lifting your arms up and down to hang laundry up outside,” says Hagen. “Laundry is definitely an activity that can be considered beneficial to your health.”

If your laundry room is in the basement, all the better-climbing just two flights of stairs every day could help you lose up to 6 pounds per year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

To turn laundry day into a fun activity for the whole family, Hagen suggests making a game of it. Get the kids to separate the clothes into colour piles, she says. “Anything that creates movement is going to be beneficial for you and your children.”

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