Spring Cleaning Calorie Burn
Shape up while you clean up
The messy kids, the hair-shedding pets, the chip-munching spouse, the
sleet-splattered windows -- it's spring cleaning time again! If only there were
some redeeming virtue to housework (other than a cleaner house, of course).
But wait, there is: Like any physical activity, chores you do around the
house and garden can burn calories and stretch and tone muscles -- if you do
Forget the old "No pain, no gain" mantra. Doctors now believe that
even short bouts of relatively mild exercise can help improve your fitness
level -- especially for people who are just getting started with exercise.
Though it's not likely to give you the body of a swimsuit model, doing some
sort of moderate activity for 30 minutes every day can bring real health
And if you add 30 minutes of chores to a 30-minute session of a more
traditional fitness activity (like walking or biking), you end up with a full
hour of exercise -- the amount experts recommend for people trying to lose
weight. That can be easier on your schedule than trying to fit in a 60-minute
workout all at once.
"If it doesn't take additional time, people are more likely to do
it," says Joel Press, MD, a physiatrist with the Center for Spine, Sports,
and Occupational Rehabilitation of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
Spring Cleaning Workout
As you might have guessed, you don't get exercise benefits by strolling
around with a feather duster.
"Intensity is the key," says Debbie Mandel, MA, a trainer and author
of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul. "I
always say gyms should have classes where women are pushing a vacuum cleaner or
wiping down the mirrors!"
It's also important to work quickly. "To get more benefit, speed up the
time in which you do something," says Mary Findley, a former professional
housecleaner who now owns Mary Moppins, a mop-manufacturing company in Eugene,
But here's one case where efficiency is not a good thing. More steps and
more movements are what you're after. So forget that cleaning-product caddy
organizer people always recommend you carry around. If you have to walk extra
steps to get the broom, that's golden.
Here are some other tips for making housework a workout:
- Put on some fast music -- rock and roll, salsa, whatever you like. This
helps you pick up speed, Findley says. A bathroom should only take 20 minutes
to clean, she says. So get moving!
- Whenever you're doing chores, tighten your abs. This prevents you from
- Stretch extra-high to knock down those cobwebs or prune that limb. You
should feel it along your side.
- Strive for large up-and-down movements. When cleaning a shower door, for
example, make big circles. "I am a trainer and I feel like my arm is about
to fall off!" exclaims Mandel.
- Carry heavy baskets of laundry or supplies up from the basement, if your
- Climb on a stepladder every chance you get. "What's the difference
between this and a step class?" Mandel asks.
- Scrub floors on your hands and knees. And get on your hands and knees to
pull out all that dust and clutter hiding under the bed.
- Do lunges while vacuuming (keep toes pointed straight ahead, and don't bend
your knees further than 90 degrees). You'll feel it in your thighs.
- When putting away dishes, face forward and twist to reach the
- In the garden, lunge toward weeds. "Some of them have roots 5 feet
long," Mandel says. "Those'll give you a workout!"
- Pruning requires forearm strength (and helps develop it). It also requires
reaching on your toes -- like a calf raise, Mandel says. So volunteer for this
chore, and don't be afraid of thicker or higher branches.
- Pouring mulch or fertilizer from a heavy bag requires a squat. Remember to
use your legs, not your back.
- Wielding a weed-eater is like fencing, almost. Pull in those abs and pay
attention to your form.
- If you have area rugs, beat them using a clean broom rather than vacuuming.
This means more steps to get outside and more exercise for your arm