Which will best give you a physically fit body?
Housework, cardio exercise or strength training (weight workouts)?
Housework vs. Aerobics vs. Resistance Exercise
Well, let’s put it this way: That lean, strong, energetic, well-postured woman who can rearrange the furniture in the home with ease didn’t get that way from vacuuming, mopping, doing loads of laundry or cleaning the kitchen.
Housework involves haphazard, erratic motions, often placing undue stress on the lower back — not to mention asymmetrical forces on the body since people will favor their non-dominant side when performing household tasks.
Whereas, strength training is all about symmetrical motions, proper spinal alignment and correct mechanics — assuming that one makes sure to use good form with the exercises.
Housework typically is not done on a systematic, structured basis, either.
You cannot compare doing the laundry, vacuuming and changing the bed sheets with the rhyme and reason of using strength training machines, barbells and dumbbells.
For example, the deadlift — a compound movement that engages nearly the entire body — involves bending over at the hips, keeping the lower back arched, legs bent, and picking a barbell off the floor.
This is done with straight arms, and then straightening the body — always keeping your hips below your shoulders — as you continue holding the barbell with straight arms.
You then set the barbell back down with a lower back arch, legs still bent, arms always straight.
Then you pick it up again, and keep doing this for repetitions to get a training effect.
Picking up a basket of laundry is similar to a deadlift motion. However, there are two problems here.
First, you pick it up only once, maybe twice or thrice that day, because after you pick it up, you dump it in the washing machine. You just did only a few repetitions.
Secondly, the weight of that laundry basket was negligible. If it felt “heavy,” this means your muscles are weak.
With strength training, you can easily keep track of progress, because you can increase the weight, and increasing the resistance further stimulates the body for improved musculoskeletal fitness.
How do you make progressions with housework?
The load of laundry never gets heavier unless you toss a 10 pound dumbbell atop your husband’s grimy shirts and your kids’ jeans.
How do you increase the resistance of vacuuming, mopping or changing bed sheets?
And where the heck is the cardio component in housework?
If housework leaves you winded, you’re in poor aerobic condition. This should be a wakeup call that you need to do rhythmic, sustained cardio exercise.
Like strength training, cardio workouts can be tracked and progressed.
You can increase the speed or incline on a treadmill, increase the revolutions or tension on a pedaling machine, and increase the stepper height in a step class, etc.
You can use the 20 pound dumbbells instead of the 15 pounders, or stick the weight stack pin at the 75 pound mark instead of the 50 pound mark.
Americans Are Getting Fatter
America continues to get fatter and sicker, yet Americans have not been doing less housework.
In a nutshell, housework fails miserably as a pathway to fitness when compared to either cardio or weight workouts.
Ideally, you’ll want to do BOTH cardio and resistance.
But the comparision of all three — cleaning house, lifting a weight, and jogging — was to illustrate a point.
Combining Classic Exercise Moves with Housework
Now if you add lunges or squats in between pushing the vacuum cleaner, then you’re doing lunges and squats alternating with pushing a vacuum.
It’s not the vacuuming that you’re benefiting from; it’s the lunges and squats!
If you’re bunny hopping around a room, pausing to pick up toys and strewn clothes, the effective exercise component is the bunny hopping, not the collecting of the toys and clothes.
Go ahead, alternate household cleaning with various movements such as deep Warrior I poses, pushups, burpees and pike jumps.
These inserted movements will definitely count as exercise.
But when people claim that housework IN AND OF ITSELF is a fitness activity, they’re mistaken.
No matter how much housework you do from week to week, you absolutely still need to do both cardio and weights.
• There’s no progressive component with housework.
• Strength training will encourage better form and spinal alignment when doing housework and reduce the risk of throwing out one’s back when scrubbing the bathtub or baseboards, or when mopping, pulling weeds or lifting toddlers out of playpens.
• Aerobic exercise like brisk walking or on cardio machines creates sustained effort that increases the heart’s efficiency.
Housework is NO match for the fitness benefits of strength training and structured cardio routines.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.