It sounds like the answer to every woman’s (or stay-at-home dad’s) prayers – evidence to suggest that mopping the floors or cleaning the dishes can have a fitness effect equivalent to slogging it out down the gym or at the running track. But can performing regular housework really help you get – and stay – fit?
Experts recommend that we try to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity – or 75 minutes of vigorous activity – every week. And while there will always be those who can’t stay away from the gym and those that wake every day at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a run before work, the majority of us struggle to fit that much exercise into our schedules. So can everyday housework really count towards your physical workout goal?
According to researchers from the BBC’s ‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’, a variety of household chores including vacuuming, mopping, washing windows, planting flowers, washing the car and mowing the lawn all score a 3 or above on the ‘MET’ scale – a measure of energy consumed by hour. Anything above 3 is considered to be within the scope of moderately intense physical activity, so when performed for long periods of time these chores could well contribute to overall good health and fitness.
However, most experts agree that household chores are no substitute for a dedicated workout regime. While a spot of housework could help you achieve the levels of exercise required to maintain your current level of fitness, anyone looking to improve their general health and stamina needs to look beyond the scope of everyday tasks and towards an established regime of regular exercise. Whether it’s twice-weekly visits to the gym or a quick run around the park every other morning, there are plenty of easy and time-efficient ways of working exercise into your weekly routine.
If you’re looking for more ‘stealth’ ways of keeping fit, there are certain everyday tasks with MET scores that classify them as intense physical activity – why not try giving your floors and bathtub a good scrub (an MET of 6.5), digging deep in the garden (7.8) or taking up disco, folk or Irish dancing (7.8)? Even brisk walking, if sustained for long enough, can help to contribute towards a decent weekly workout.
While exercising in the garden or the local park has obvious financial benefits, there’s another reason to choose simple, everyday training over a session in the gym. As winter draws nearer and dark nights close in, outdoor exercise is also a fantastic source of important Vitamin D from the sun that will help keep you healthier throughout the colder months. So, put a little extra effort into your housework, but don’t forget to get down to your local outdoor gym at the weekend for a good workout and a bathe in the sun’s rays (even if they’re not particularly warm this time of year).