Don’t want your belly shaking like a bowl full of jelly this holiday season?
Wellness experts claim that performing everyday household chores like scrubbing floors and folding laundry can burn up to 500 calories a go — and ultimately aid in the mission to avoid packing on the pounds.
“If you’re using house cleaning as a way to increase movement and physical activity, do 20 to 30 minutes each day,” Maryland University of Integrative Health professor Duston Morris told the Washington Post, touting the benefits of “NEAT,” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
The concept, pioneered by environment and biology researcher James A. Levin in 2004, describes the energy expended for everything that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise, including the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, fidgeting and cleaning.
“Focus on laundry and dusting one day, bathrooms the next,” Morris told The Post, “and vacuuming and sweeping on other days.”
Stephanie Thomas, a certified personal trainer based in Annapolis, Maryland, touted the benefits of the spick-and-span sweat session, saying, “The repetitive motion really adds up.”
And the experts aren’t messing around.
In fact, a 2019 study by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences found that completing moderately intense activities such as walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn can substantially lower the risk of early death. And a recent report from virtual wellness hub Healthline stated vacuuming for a half hour burns around 80 calories for an average 175-pound person.
Here’s how housework can set calories ablaze in the battle of the bulge.
Dust away inches
To become a lean, mean cleaning machine, you don’t need heavy artillery — a simple feather duster will do the trick. Ridding furniture and tchotchkes of dirt and grime engages your shoulder and arms, “especially when you’re reaching up high,” noted Thomas.
For supreme gains, the fitness buff suggested intermittently incorporating “lunges or squats as you move around the room.”
Studies have found that a person can burn roughly eight calories for every minute of squatting — so 10 minutes of intense tidying can sizzle away 80 cals. Thomas also said that doing a few standing side leg lifts while fulfilling dusting duties is an advantageous feat.
To ensure a thorough exercise, Morris recommended alternating hands while cleaning room-by-room, creating “muscular balance” so that a person’s dominant side doesn’t become overworked.
Burning in the bathroom
It stinks — but deep cleaning the can is a great way to flush excess fat.
Scrubbing gunk from the tiles, shower, bathtub, mirror, counters and toilet works a variety of muscle groups throughout the arms, back and shoulders. To tone up the legs while dejunking the john, Thomas suggested squeezing in some standing calf raises and squats: “You’ll really feel the burn with squat holds.” Mopping the floors can also ignite a burn of up to 100 calories.
Cutting cals in the kitchen
Hitting the kitchen for a workout might seem counter-intuitive — but Thomas says it’s a choice place to cook up a sweat.
Much like sprucing around the bathroom, the gym guru said incorporating standing calf raises, squats and lunges into a kitchen cleanse is top-tier use of NEAT energy.
Executing incline pushups against your countertops — leaning against the elevated surfaces for modified yet worthwhile impact — is another of Thomas’ hot tips. It’s a move that Texas-based personal trainer James de Lacy, 33, too, praised for its calorie-burning advantages back in September.
And if you can stand the heat, Morris says getting flatware into and out of this kitchen appliance is key.
“Loading and unloading a dishwasher requires a full range of motion as you go from stooping over the dishwasher to reaching up to a shelf,” proposed the professor.
Lose it with laundry
It’s dirty work, but it works.
There’s virtually nothing more boring than folding clothes. But Thomas has fluffed up a hack for making laundry heart-pumping pleasure. “When you are folding clothes, do pushups or modified pushups at an incline against the bed or a couch,” she said, amplifying the challenge by urging folks to pump out five pushups between every five pieces of folded finery.
Fat-burning on the floor
Pushing a vacuum, mop or sweeper can make you tight and leaner.
“Cleaning floors can be a mini-workout,” insisted Thomas. “When you vacuum and mop, you’re engaging your core muscles,” she continued, adding that the chores also boost muscles in the arms and shoulders.
Morris encouraged changing your hand position on the broom or mop handle as a calorie-crushing practice.
“Sweep or mop some of your floors with your right hand on the top of the broom handle and your left hand on the lower portion of the broom handle,” he said. “Then do the other half of your floors with your hands in the opposite position.”
And when it comes to tackling those hard-to-reach places, like busting dust bunnies beneath large pieces of furniture, Morris suggested making a move — literally.
“Pushing or pulling a coffee table is going to engage the biceps, triceps, chest, back and core,” he said. “Lift the corner of your couch to sweep underneath it, and shake out rugs.”
And Morris assured that the burning fat isn’t the only bonus of extreme cleaning — there’s a healthy self-esteem boost, too.
“In the process of accomplishing something physical,” he began, “you gain more agency, and you believe in yourself more.”