Vacuuming for health?! You may want to rethink that paradigm…

Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in physical fitness | 0 comments

vintage vacuuming

Before you include housework in your weekly tally toward physical activity, you may want to pay close attention: UK researchers say that claiming housework as exercise may be a mistake. (No wonder, FitBit barely registers when I vacuum or dust!). And, while some of you might openly rejoice about the lack of a connection between health and housework (true confession: there is a part of me that is just tickled by this news), it’s important to recognize that in an effort to encourage sedentary individuals to incorporate some form of physical activity into their lives, there may have been a bit of overselling going on. Let’s face it; housekeeping is not going to propel you toward fitness competition medals.

A bit of background is in order. I’m not claiming that health departments have been engaging in deception in order to get people off their butts; promotion of domestic physical activity is linked, at least partially, to studies that provide evidence for a link between things like home maintenance and gardening, and a reduction in risk for death from multiple activities. And let’s face it: some activity is always better than none. However, findings from a survey of roughly 4,600 Irish adults demonstrate that not only do less than half meet current recommendations to engage in at least 150 minutes moderate to intense physical activity per week, but, among the 42% of individuals who do, domestic physical activity (i.e. housework, do it yourself projects, gardening, or other) accounts for anywhere from 11% to 73% of this activity. Among women in particular who exclude domestic activity, only 20% would meet current recommendations.

And the news gets worse: the researchers say that housework was inversely related to leanness, suggesting that people are either “overestimating the amount of moderate physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity  undertaken.”

I say that it’s time to rebel against housework, take the streets and head straight to the gym! Forget the dusting; try a walk around the block instead! Vacuuming? No way; try a Zumba class!

Seriously though, health campaigns that are promoting domestic physical activity as curing that which ails the sedentary individual are doing us all a huge disfavour. Exercise often and exercise to burn calories, up your heart rate and break a sweat. Unless you are doing the IroningWoman Marathon, when it comes to housework and health, all bets are off!

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