Is Housework Work?

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by Stephanie Nickel

As I was getting ready for my son’s girlfriend’s first visit – from Scotland, no less – I did some of that extra housework that often goes undone (in my house, at least).

As I was scrubbing the goop off the World’s Oldest Tub Surround (whoever installed it wasn’t the world’s neatest handyman), I realized just how much actual work I was doing.

Now, don’t think a quick vacuum and dusting will replace a focussed workout, but various chores do work a variety of muscles.

Scrubbing that tub surround worked several upper body muscles: wrists, forearms, biceps, triceps, deltoids (shoulder muscles). It even helped my balance as I perched on the tub.

Washing walls is more of a triceps workout than you might think – especially if the walls need a lot of wiping down/scrubbing.

While vacuuming may not be particularly taxing, it may very well include a variety of muscles. Carrying the vacuum from one level to another works your biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles, as well as your leg muscles, of course. Moving the furniture out of the way may be a full-body workout in and of itself.

Climbing stairs works your quads and your hamstrings. It can work your calves too if you take the time to do 12-24 calf raises on the edge of one of those stairs. (Balance on the balls of your feet on the edge of the stair. Hold onto the railing and the wall for stability. Gently drop your heels below the stair and then come up on the balls of your feet. Keep the lower part of your legs parallel; don’t let your knees “collapse” against one another.)

Walking from room to room is a great opportunity to lunge walk. (I’m not crazy. I promise.)

Carrying cleaning supplies, if they’re not too heavy, is a great chance to do a few bicep curls. (I do it with groceries too.)

Cleaning the bathtub will work those upper body muscles we mentioned previously – as well as several back muscles.

It’s pretty much guaranteed that your core will get the most rigorous workout as you do your housework. You engage your lower back as you bend; your obliques as you twist; your abdominals as you get up from cleaning the bottom of your coffee table . . . Wait! You don’t do that? Me neither. 😀

While the benefits of stretching are up for debate, one thing is certain, we want to remain flexible and able to do the housework – and those things we enjoy even more. So, while you’re reaching to get to that awkward corner, consciously stretch, slow and easy. You can do the same as you’re washing your walls and ceiling with a Swiffer mop. (We have nine-foot ceilings. I’ve found it works great.)

Be conscious of how you move and make the most of your housework. Change your position often to give your muscles a rest. Reward yourself when you’re done with a healthy snack. Sit back and enjoy your sparkling home and realize those complaining muscles are simply saying, “You did a good job. Thank you.”


Stephanie Nickel, CLD, PTS is a freelance writer and editor, a labour doula, and a personal trainer.

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1 thought on “Is Housework Work?

  1. Pingback: 11 Ways to Turn Housework into Exercise by Stephanie Nickel | Kimberley J. Payne

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