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Housecleaning Cardio-Exercises Whittle Inches While You Work


Previous generations didn't think about how it would firm their thighs or strengthen their pectorals, but they stayed in great shape doing it. Long before Stairmasters and aerobics, men and women kept with daily doses of good, old-fashioned housework.

Though times have changed with the introduction of the vacuum and other so-called labor-saving devices, there's still a lot of benefit to be gotten from household chores.

"Many people don't realize that you can get a workout cleaning your house or washing your car," says Kiana Tom of Sunset Beach, who is co-host of the ESPN television show "BodyShaping."

If you want to work out, but don't have the time, or would like to augment your current exercise routine, the answer may be in the dust on your tables or the mud on your car.

To get a good "exer-cleaning" workout, you'll probably need to change your cleaning methods a little. "When doing cardiovascular work such as vacuuming and dusting, pick up the pace," Tom says. "Also exaggerate movements more than usual and take more time with some tasks than you might otherwise."

For an optimum workout, you may also want to add a few inexpensive workout items that you can use in conjunction with cleaning exercises.

The best exer-cleaning workout starts with cardiovascular work and ends with strength training. To get yourself in the workout-cleaning mode, Tom suggests putting on some upbeat music.

Here's how to get a head-to-toe workout while cleaning your house from top-to-bottom.


Vacuuming is a high energy chore that is comparable to brisk walking, says Jerry Tyler, a personal trainer at the Sports Club/Irvine, where he specializes in recreation and sports conditioning. "Vacuuming not only provides you with cardiovascular conditioning, it also does a good job of working your legs and shoulders."

To cardio-vac effectively, exaggerate your movements and change hands frequently so that you give both sides of the body a comparable workout, Tyler says.

For maximum benefit, it's important to vacuum nonstop for at least 20 minutes and preferably more, because you don't begin to burn fat until after 20 minutes, Tom says.

In order to get in enough cardio time, you can either vacuum and re-vacuum parts of the house, switch to another type of cardio-cleaning or try jogging in place after you finish vacuuming.


Make dusting an aerobic activity that will also work your arms and shoulders by quickly and briskly dusting, using not only your forearm and hand, but your entire shoulder, Tom says. "Do circular movements until the muscle starts to burn and then switch arms," she says. So that you can continue without stopping, it might be a good idea to clear the furniture you want to dust before starting.

Workout and Wash the Car

"Washing the car will not only give you a good overall cardio-workout, if you keep moving, it will also really work your arms," Tom says. "Just make sure to change arms frequently."


If you have stairs in your house, they provide you with a great vehicle for working out. As a matter of fact, running steps and bleachers is often done by athletes in training, Tyler says. Doing stair work will condition your legs and give you an aerobic workout at the same time.

Try to make several trips up and down the stairs while cleaning. Depending on how often you run up and down them or how many there are, it may be a good idea to temporarily stop housework and do some stair work.

Keeping a steady pace, travel up and down the steps for a few minutes. To add interest, you can vary the stepping pattern and do backward and forward lunges off the bottom step, Tyler says.

When using your steps for exercise, to prevent falling, concentrate on what you're doing and use the wall or handrail for support.

If you have no steps in your house, you may want to add to your workout by purchasing a step platform, which is used in aerobic classes. It can be used during the cardio portion of your exer-cleaning between vacuuming and dusting. The platforms cost from $80 to $130 and often come with videos.


Once you've completed cardio-cleaning, it's time to do some resistance exercises. There are a variety of chores you can do to strengthen muscles.

Firm-and-tone with the dishes

When unloading the dishwasher, instead of just bending over from the waist to reach for dishes and putting them in the cupboard, do squats, Tom says. To do these, hold the dishes close to your body, keep your back straight and lower yourself slowly to a sitting position. Wait for a second or two and then slowly stand up and put the dishes away.

Do this 20 to 40 times and you'll give your bottom and legs a good workout.

Strength-train with the groceries

Make a weightlifting session out of bringing in the groceries and putting them away, Tyler says. "Paper bags of groceries are often good to use for exercise because most range in weight from eight to 10 pounds," he says.

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