Fitness Articles

Turn Spring Cleaning into Spring Training

7 Ways to Put the Lean in Clean

The job of cleaning house is never finished. It reminds me of a motivational poster I once saw that had a picture of a man running on a road that was disappearing into the far distance ahead of him. The caption read, "There is no finish line." If you have to clean up after kids, pets, or  a messy roommate, you can probably relate.

Because cleaning is a never-ending job, why not make the most of it ? Turn cleaning into a workout! Because a lack of time is the main reason we skip workouts, this can be just what you need to make it all fit in. A 2005 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that Brits burn more than 50,000 calories a year—nearly 15 pounds of fat—just by cleaning their homes. Let me in on that action!

Like any physical activity, housework can burn calories and tone muscles if you do it correctly. You don’t have to make it to the gym to check a workout off your to-do list. Doctors and fitness professionals now believe that short bouts of relatively mild exercise can help improve your fitness level—especially for those who do little to no physical activity or are just getting started. Now, don’t expect to look like a supermodel or an all-star athlete when you take off your apron and dishwashing gloves, but 30 minutes a day of moderate activity can bring some legitimate health benefits.

The first thing to remember is that if you are going to count this as exercise you have to do more than just stroll around and flip the feather duster a little here and a little there. Try to accumulate at least 10 minutes straight to count it as exercise—and really work it! Make a conscious effort to pick up the pace and move continuously. For the greatest fitness benefit, try to accumulate more steps and movement by leaving all the cleaning supplies in the cabinet and making extra trips up and down the stairs, for example. If you have to make an extra trip to the other room to get the dustpan for the broom, that’s what adds up.

Here are some tips to help transform your daily housework into a daily workout:
  1. Lunge. When you vacuum, perform some walking lunges. Remember to keep your knees directly above your ankles, your back straight and your abs engaged. You will know this is working by feeling it in your thighs and glutes.
  2. Go big. Instead of making small circles when scrubbing the shower or cleaning windows, make long, sweeping movements. For example, when you are cleaning the shower door, take long swipes from top to bottom, squatting (not bending!) to reach the lower spots. This will give you a hearty shoulder workout and engage your entire lower body.
  3. Clean to the beat! Turn on the radio or your iPod while you clean. Feel the beat and dance around a bit. Make sure to use some fast music so you'll be encouraged to pick up your speed and break a sweat.
  4. Step it up. Use a stepladder or step stool when you need to reach high areas. You can simulate your own step aerobics class this way!
  5. Twist and shout. When you are loading or unloading your dishwasher or dryer, add a twist-and-reach move. This movement will serve to strengthen your core and target that "love handle" area around the obliques.
  6. Take a swing. Instead of vacuuming your rugs, take them outside, hang them up, pick up your broom and swing away to beat out dust and dirt. This will involve more muscles than vacuuming alone and help you get some fresh air.
  7. Take the stairs. Instead of making one trip up and down, make multiple trips with the clean or dirty clothes. Remember, the goal here to make more work for yourself, not less.
Not everyone is convinced that housework will do much to help you shape up; however, approaching cleaning and chores this way will certainly burn more calories and help improve mobility. The American Heart Association does count housework as moderate exercise. Again, it isn’t going to get you prepared for a marathon, triathlon, or climbing Mt. Everest, every little bit adds up!
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • In the "poll" for this article, why does SP create such leading responses? Instead of giving readers/ respondents several choices to answer "yes" or "no," SP pushes respondents to agree with "reasons" for our views on spring cleaning as working out which are not always the reason someone wants to, or can, honestly, answer "yes" or "no." Which means some of us will not answer either way!!! Frustrating, misleading, and unnecessary. - 2/14/2015 12:04:01 AM
  • Between back pain and leg pain, cleaning is a huge accomplishment. How do we track it though? - 11/3/2014 11:34:57 AM
  • A fun way to workout, but calories and feel good! - 5/12/2014 8:28:23 AM
  • I prefer to get my cleaning done quickly so I can go for a walk/run/rollerbl
    ade. - 3/24/2013 6:14:55 PM
    Beat the rugs for "fresh" air. LOL - 3/24/2013 10:09:06 AM
  • Not interested in extra trips etc but I agree with turning up the music and getting a little pep into my step while I do the dirty deed! - 3/9/2012 3:20:58 PM
  • Interesting article. I think I'd rather get the cleaning over with so I have time for an actual workout, rather than make extra trips, though. And maybe it's me, but the "strolling around flicking a feather duster" bit comes off a bit patronizing & unlike the tone I'd expect from Sparkpeople--or from anyone who has personally cleaned a house. - 12/1/2010 9:02:00 PM
  • I need to clean house, and I want to clean house and when I do clean, I get sweaty so I know it's working, but I get FRUSTRATED at SparkPeople! Why???? Because in the "Home Activities" pop up for the Cardio workouts, there is no tracking available for the more "girly" home activities - nothing for "vacuuming" ! (now that can be a back-breaking activity all by itself!)! Nothing for "carrying laundry up and down stairs"! There is "Heavy Cleaning" but that's not really defined - how do I know if what I do is "Heavy Cleaning"? I want to be honest about the work I do, but I always feel like I'm lying when I try to track some of this. Help!! - 10/20/2010 10:56:23 AM
  • Beejie1--That's a great idea!! I will wear my heart rate monitor while I clean and do chores and see how it goes. - 5/25/2010 8:51:20 AM
  • DAISY2203
    I clean my house everyday, becasue I am a clean freak. This pice has offered me some great advice to help make my daily cleaning into another workout of sorts. I was sort of doing these things but now will do it with more thought and purpose. Thank you SP! - 5/7/2010 5:51:02 PM
  • I definitely do this. I have a cleaning job I do once a week. The house is pretty big and takes me about 4hours to clean. I always intensify my cleaning and I end up burning major calories on this day! I love it! - 5/4/2010 1:36:21 PM
  • I really don't enjoy cleaning at all..but I'm going to try some of these suggestions for the purposes of a good workout! - 4/29/2010 10:22:16 AM
  • Of course, if you have a handicap, sometimes just cleaning at all is a workout!!! - 3/23/2010 4:26:00 PM
  • My mother always said "It is easy to clean a clean house." She'd point out how maids cleaned daily in a hotel and it didn't take long. So, do it fast and get it done. - 3/23/2010 12:08:20 PM
    I totally agree with this. I sued to dread housecleaning--th
    en I started wearing my heart rate monitor and was wowed by the calorie burn which equals if not exceeds my walks! - 3/23/2010 9:15:29 AM

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