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Household Chores

Cleaning house is definitely a calorie burner, but it’s not quite as challenging as most outdoor work, Margolis says. “Unless there’s a new sport I haven’t heard of called speed vacuuming, you aren’t really elevating your heart rate much.”

The approximate average calorie count of typical housecleaning activities is:

  • Major cleaning (turning mattresses, washing windows, washing the car): 175-250 calories per hour.
  • Moderate housecleaning (laundry loads, mopping and sweeping, vacuuming): 150-200 calories per hour
  • Light housecleaning (dusting, straightening up, taking out the trash): 120-170 calories per hour.
  • Child care: 300-600 calories per hour (depending on how old the kids are and how active they are)

Just as with outdoor chores, to make these housecleaning tasks more of a workout, you’ve got to get back in time. Turn to an old-fashioned mop and a bucket full of soapy water that you have to carry and occasionally dump and wring out.

“Scrub,” advises Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a nutrition policy consultant for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. “There’s an old saying that elbow grease is what gets things clean. It burns more calories too.”

Giancoli also suggests switching arms -- if you’re left-handed, scrub with your right and vice versa. “It makes it harder to do and tires out your muscles faster. Trying to become ambidextrous will burn more calories, help you move your body in a new and challenging way, and keep your brain alert.”

You’re probably trying to be efficient when you haul three loads of laundry up the stairs all at once -- but you’re not burning that many calories. Instead, take advantage of your built-in “home StairMaster,” and take the clothes up one load at a time.

Taking care of your kids is perhaps one of the best ways to burn extra calories while doing chores around the house. Make your toddler giggle by pressing him up and down like a barbell 10 or 20 times.

And don’t just sit there watching them: do what they do. “Mimic the child’s movements: if he rolls on the ground, you do it,” says Margolis. “If she climbs on the monkey bars, you do it. If he spins in a circle until he falls down, you do it.”