Feel the Burn, The House Cleaning Workout
Can you vacuum and dust your way to a healthy body?
In 2008 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) tried to answer the question, "How much physical activity do adults need?" Their recommendations are called Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
An adult, between the ages of 18 and 64, should do 150 minutes a week of moderately intense aerobic activities like brisk walking. You're also supposed to engage in weight training activities for all the major muscle groups two or more additional days a week. That's a minimum 3.5 hours a week exercising.
It doesn't seem like much when you compare it to the 4.8 hours a day Americans watch television or the 2.7 hours a day people spend texting and using mobile devices. It's even less than the approximately four hours a week Americans spend in their cars driving to and from work.
But exercise is hard. So in an effort to give people an option, experts began suggesting we could substitute things like house cleaning and yard work for traditional exercise. They talk about burning 200 calories scrubbing the bathtub, 190 calories carrying shopping bags or 130 calories making the bed. Sounds good, right?
What most people fail to realize is how long they would have to do each of those activities. Scrub the tub vigorously, carry heavy grocery bags and keep making that bed for 30 solid minutes.
Think about it. When was the last time you scrubbed a tub for 30 minutes? How far away do you have to park to carry grocery bags for half an hour? And the only people I know that make beds for 30 minutes work in hotel housekeeping.
Then there's the issue of how "vigorously" you're doing those things. When you finish making the bed is your heart rate elevated? Is sweat dripping down your face? If not, you aren't working out intensely enough.
People doing yard work are under similar misconceptions. One article excitedly talked about how many calories you burn chopping wood, digging a post hole and pushing a manual mower. Tell me, when was the last time you dug a post hole or chopped wood? When I asked friends what they did for yard work, they talked about pulling weeds, leaf blowers and riding mowers. Not exactly calorie burning powerhouses.
Yard work and house cleaning aren't worthless. Do them and you'll have a clean house and well-tended yard. Also, if you haven't been to a gym in awhile those are both great activities to start. You'll get some exercise and burn more calories than sitting on the couch and watching television. But you've got to do it for at least 30 minutes a day; you've got to work hard enough to raise your heart rate and you must lift things heavy enough to challenge your muscles. Puttering around isn't exercise.
National Cancer Institute Study
For those of you who insist that vacuuming and dusting are just as good as a trip to the gym, consider a couple important studies. In one, the National Cancer Institute followed 32,269 women for eleven years. They found that women who engaged in vigorous activity like digging, chopping wood, aerobics, running and fast jogging were 30% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn't exercise vigorously.
Non-vigorous activity included vacuuming, washing clothes, general gardening, walking, recreational tennis and bowling. There was a catch. That vigorous activity only protected lean women, not those who were overweight or obese. Activity was important, but weight loss had to happen as well or the benefit was muted.
British Women's Heart and Health Study
In the British Women's Heart and Health Study, researchers looked at more than 2,300 women between the ages of 60 and 79. They found that women who did the typical walking, gardening and heavy housework were often overweight and unfit.
Women who engaged in 2.5 hours a week of brisk walking were much slimmer and had significantly slower resting heart rates (a sign of heart health). Even heavy housework didn't provide any significant benefit.
Casual isn't going to do it. You've got to sweat. You've got to move vigorously. You've got to lift weights. There is no easier or softer way.
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