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Should You Count Housework As Part of Your Exercise Regimen?

Updated on July 13, 2019
Lorra Garrick profile image

Former ACE-certified personal trainer Lorra Garrick has trained men & women for fat loss, muscle building, more strength and more fitness.

If “everything counts” as exercise, including housework, how come you haven’t reached your fitness or weight loss goals?

I can’t write enough on the myth that housework counts as exercise. Just because cleaning your home involves movement doesn’t mean it’s right up there with the dumbbell squats, mountain climbers, pushups, burpees, deadlifts, interval cardio, bench presses, hill dashes and box step-ups.

You’ve been doing housework for HOW LONG, yet now, suddenly, it counts towards your exercise regimen?

If you’re aiming to get fit, lithe, strong and durable, and you see in the mirror a soft, flabby, untoned body that tires easily and carries a bit too much fat…

…and you’ve ALREADY been doing housework all along…doesn’t it stand to reason that in order to change your body, you must introduce a variable to the equation?

Introducing a variable (exercise) means that it doesn’t pre-exist. Housework pre-exists.

The concept of variable is the opposite of something that’s already there, that you’ve been doing all along, that’s built-in. Housework is the constant, the built-in factor, in the equation.

The housework you’ve been doing all along is part of your activity-level BASELINE.

If you’re happy with your body, muscle tone, muscle stamina and strength, joint and back strength, body weight and energy level, then fine…there’s no need to bring in a variable and go above your baseline.

But if you want to lose weight, get stronger, healthier, fitter, get rid of the aches and pains, get a strong back and knees, a more durable heart, then by golly, you must introduce a variable.

Structured Exercise Is Your Variable

It can be done at a gym, outdoors or at home using equipment (e.g., medicine ball, kettlebell, dumbbells, weighted pole, tension bands, your body weight).

Don’t believe for a second that something you’ve been doing ALL ALONG suddenly gets to count as a variable. If you’ve been jogging at a park all along, then great – this counts as real exercise. But vacuuming? Changing the beds? Don’t get on this myth-laden bandwagon.

What does “fitness” mean to you?

  • Healthy body weight and composition (not “skinny fat”)
  • Muscles that range from toned to very developed and everything in between – depending on the individual being asked
  • Strong low back, core
  • Ability to engage in strenuous activity without feeling beaten up
  • Can run around with the dog without getting out of breath
  • Can lift and move heavy things
  • Can race up and down stairs with ease

Housework won’t train you to hoist heavy things over your head. Only structured, methodical strength training can do that. An example is repeatedly picking a heavy ball off the floor and placing it on a high ledge: five to eight repetitions.

But why would you ever need to lift heavy things over your head?

One day I was in the outside garden department of Home Depot and wanted a stack of items that was on a shelf. Anyone who’s ever been in Home Depot’s outside garden department knows how high those shelves are. No employees were around.

I reached up and grabbed the stack of items (can’t recall what it was), and it was heavy, but the kicker was that it was unstable because it was a stack of items rather than one solid box or other kind of solitary object.

I got it down with control and, sinking into a squat and utilizing some reverse deadlift motion, set the merchandise on the ground.

No amount or type of housework could have prepared me for this. You just never know when your body will be called into action.

I never could have predicted I’d one day need to scoop my arms under my parents’ 85-pound dog, as he lie on the floor after having a seizure, and lift him up, then race to the car while carrying him and put his listless body in the back seat.

Think about what this involves: Holding 85 pounds … of floppy dog, while leaning forward enough to carefully and gently transfer this weight onto a car seat. This is way different than holding an 85 pound sack of pebbles and just dumping it onto the seat.

And then at the vet clinic, pick him up off the seat and dash with him in my arms up several steps and through corridors in the building and then set him on the examination table. No amount or type of housework could have trained me for this.

Many more times throughout his brain cancer treatment I had to pick him up off the ground and carry him. I did this with ease. I have gym workouts to thank for this, not housework.

Housework is not a good form of exercise.

You’ve been doing housework all along. It’s not a variable. It’s a constant. Suddenly knowing how many calories various housework duties burn won’t suddenly make you lose weight or get fitter or more toned.

There’s no such thing as built-in, structured, methodical exercise. You must create it. The house is going to get cleaned ANYWAYS, as it always has. Housework is a constant! If you’re going to count “any activity” towards your fitness plan, then where should you draw the line? Should brushing your teeth count too? After all, that’s movement, right?

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