If housework is a weapon against heart attacks, then the vast majority of Americans must have dirty houses.
Dr. Gretchen Wells endorses the concept of “even a little bit of physical activity,” as far as reducing the risk of heart attack. She is the director of Women’s Heart Health at the Gill Heart Institute.
She states, “You can kill two birds with one stone by doing a few simple tasks around the house.”
As a fitness expert rather than a cardiologist, I have to challenge this assertion. The Centers for Disease Control reports that every year in the U.S., 735,000 people suffer a heart attack.
If cleaning the house can have an impact on the incidents of heart attacks, then why are there so many heart attacks in America? The vast majority of people do housework.
How can something, that we’re already doing, knock down the risk of heart attack? People are ALREADY cleaning their houses. It’s not a variable. It’s a constant. A constant in an equation doesn’t suddenly start changing the outcome.
However, I will say this: We should strive to get in at least 10,000 steps a day. But this should be an adjunct to a structured exercise regimen.
A structured workout regimen should include strength training and cardiovascular exercise (preferably interval training).
I have a treadmill desk that I use mostly for editorial work. My goal is to hit 12,000 steps on it by bedtime.
This is easy to keep track of because I’ve already calculated the number of steps per minute that correspond to various speeds (e.g., 2 mph = 99 steps/minute).
Getting in those 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day will help thwart what has become known as “the sitting disease.” The sitting disease can contribute to blocked coronary arteries.
But how can I make housework count towards lowering heart attack risk if housework has always been a constant, something I’ve always done?
Plus, it takes only so long to clean the kitchen at night after a day of use. It takes only so long to vacuum the rooms. I have only so much laundry to do. There are only so many plants to water.
There is no progressive component to cleaning the house. The vacuum cleaner doesn’t get heavier like a dumbbell can.
You can vacuum only so fast. You can stock the cupboards with cleaned chinaware and glasses only so fast. The iron that you use for clothes is only so heavy; it doesn’t get heavier like a dumbbell can.
Do you see where I’m going with this? WE ARE ALREADY DOING HOUSEWORK. And Americans just keep getting fatter and fatter.
We need to change this way of thinking and face the hard facts: Housework does not substitute for very effective modes of structured exercise that significantly benefit the heart, such as high intensity interval training.
Though you may be thinking that inserting deep lunging movements every few seconds while vacuuming can turn housework into a legitimate workout, what you’re actually doing here are TWO different things in the same time frame: vacuuming and lunging.
The lunging is not housework. It’s lunging, and doing it every few seconds while vacuuming will get you the same result as if you were doing it every few seconds in a gym’s open space area.
What I’m talking about is the actual housework.
If housework is so effective at reducing heart attacks, helping clean the coronary arteries, building strong bones and providing other health benefits, then doggone it, why are so many Americans dropping from heart attacks, getting diagnosed with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and suffering from back pain and osteoporosis?
The Calorie Control Council notes that dusting can burn up to 216 calories in an hour. First off, if it takes someone a whole hour to dust, they must have a heck of a lot of furniture—in a very roomy house.
Calorie expenditures for various household tasks are typically set to unrealistic time lapses to inflate the calorie count.
Besides…aren’t you ALREADY dusting? This calorie expenditure is already built into your life. Dusting is not going to benefit your heart health just because you now know how many calories it burns. Another point to consider: How often do you dust?
Many aspects of housework are intermittent, such as dusting, window cleaning, mopping and ironing.
But even if you seem to be doing “a lot” of it every day (maybe you have several energetic kids or a lazy husband), it is still a constant, not a variable! It’s built in!
Cardio exercise is excellent for lowering the risk of heart attacks.
Housework does not count as effective cardio exercise.
Examples of effective cardiovascular exercise include:
- high intensity interval training (which can be done via numerous modes such as a stationary bike, elliptical machine, walking, stepping and jumping)
- interval training (like HIIT except the intervals are less intense)
- group aerobics classes
- plyometrics (box jumping, squat jumps, lunge jumps, pike jumps)
- sled pushing (just the sled alone; no weights added, interval style).
Cleaning dishes, changing beds, clearing out junk in the attic, raking leaves, washing the car…come on, there is just no comparison.
Strength training also provides benefits to heart health in its own unique way (including lowering resting blood pressure), thus helping reduce the risk of heart attack.
I recommend the following: squat, deadlift, leg press, bench press, seated row, pushup, standing shoulder press and kettlebell swing.
Housework does not lower the risk of heart attack.