I’m a certified personal trainer who’s been writing for years that housework does not replace structured exercise, and thus, is a poor tool to rely upon for any fitness goal, including weight loss.
The BMC Public Health journal (October, 2013) has the latest report on the fallacy that more housework or any amount leads to weight loss.
The study analyzed data of self-reports of exercise. The more that housework was self-reported as part of one’s exercise time for the week, the heavier that person was.
In fact, when people included cleaning the home as their moderate to vigorous physical activity, they tended to be heavier when compared to subjects who reported the same amount of time doing non-housework forms of action.
The report notes that the UK Department of Health guidelines for exercise are 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous activity.
The analyzed data comes from the Sport NI Sport & Physical Activity Survey by the University of Ulster.
People who named housework as a part of their weekly time spent exercising had a tendency to be heavier, says this report.
The study leader, Professor Marie Murphy, explains that in theory, any physical activity (of which housework is, of course) should increase caloric expenditure.
“But we found that housework was inversely related to leanness,” says Murphy, “which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate intensity physical activity they do through housework,” or, she says, they’re eating too much to offset the activity.
To some people, mopping a floor is vigorous activity. As a fitness professional, my definition of vigorous activity is doing hill dashes or 30 consecutive kettlebell swings with a 25 pound weight.
I’ve noted in many articles of mine, however, that “strenuous” or “vigorous” is subjective, and to a very out-of-shape, overweight person, walking 3 mph up a slight incline can exhaust them within 60 seconds — and hence, for that individual, it qualifies as “vigorous.”
However, this same person may be able to perform typical household duties without any difficulty other than some faster breathing and a little perspiration.
Murphy explains that it must be clarified that as far as amount of exercise for health-yielding results, that “housework may not be intense enough to contribute to the weekly target,” and, as she adds, “that other more intense activities also need to be included each week.”
A closer look at the inverse relationship between amount of housework self-reported and the bodyweight of the participant:
It stands to reason that someone who makes excuses not to perform structured strength training and cardio workouts will freely convince themselves that cleaning the home provides adequate exercise.
It’s not difficult to understand why overweight or obesity would be more prevalent in this demographic.
An overweight or clinically obese person is perfectly capable of conducting household chores.
Because they’re heavy and don’t do adequate structured exercise, doing certain household tasks will quickly fatigue them or make them ache. Because of this, they consider housework “vigorous.”
A fit person, on the other hand, would consider the same degree of housework as very light duty.