Reframing Housework as Exercise

In our busy lives, finding time for regular exercise can be a challenge.

However, there is a simple and effective solution that can seamlessly integrate physical activity into your daily routine: reframing housework as exercise.

By viewing household chores as opportunities for physical activity, you can transform mundane tasks into a workout, making it easier to stay active and achieve your fitness goals.

In this guide, we explore the benefits of reframing housework as exercise and provide strategies for making household chores enjoyable and effective workouts.

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The benefits of reframing housework as exercise

Time efficiency

Incorporating exercise into your daily chores eliminates the need to set aside additional time for physical activity. This approach is particularly beneficial if you have a busy schedule or if you struggle to find time for traditional workouts.

Example: Instead of spending an hour at the gym, you can achieve similar physical activity levels by cleaning your home, gardening, or washing your car.

Cost-effective

Reframing housework as exercise requires no special equipment or gym memberships, making it a cost-effective way to stay active.

Example: Tasks like vacuuming, mopping, and garden work provide excellent cardiovascular and strength-building workouts without any additional costs.

Improved home environment

Regularly engaging in housework not only benefits your physical health but also leads to a cleaner, more organised living space, which can enhance your overall wellbeing and reduce stress.

Example: A clean and organised home creates a more pleasant and relaxing environment, contributing to better mental health.

Variety and flexibility

Housework offers a wide range of physical activities, from light tasks like dusting to more vigorous activities like scrubbing floors. This variety can help prevent boredom.

Example: Alternating between different types of chores provides a full-body workout and keeps you engaged.

Maximising the exercise potential of housework

Increase intensity

To get the most out of housework as exercise, increase the intensity of your movements. Work at a brisk pace and use larger muscle groups to maximise your calorie burn and improve cardiovascular fitness.

Example: When vacuuming, use long, sweeping motions and move quickly from room to room. For floors, use a brush instead of a hoover, or a cloth instead of a mop. Add lunges or squats when vacuuming to enhance the workout.

Engage multiple muscle groups

Choose chores that engage multiple muscle groups to provide a comprehensive workout. Tasks that require lifting, bending, and reaching are particularly effective.

Example: Scrubbing floors, gardening, and carrying laundry baskets involve multiple muscle groups and provide a full-body workout.

Use proper form

Just like in traditional exercise, using proper form during housework is essential to prevent injury and maximise effectiveness. Pay attention to your posture and body mechanics.

Example: When lifting heavy objects like laundry baskets or boxes, bend at the knees and keep your back straight to avoid strain.

Incorporate intervals

Add intervals of higher intensity to your housework routine to boost your calorie burn and cardiovascular fitness. Alternate between periods of intense activity and lighter tasks.

Intervals can also be done when walking to work or the shops, or when climbing the stairs if there are lots of floors.

Example: Spend a few minutes vigorously scrubbing the bathtub, then switch to lighter tasks like dusting or tidying up for a few minutes before returning to a more intense activity.

Track your progress

Use a fitness tracker or smartphone app to monitor your physical activity levels during housework. Tracking your progress can help you stay motivated and ensure you are meeting your fitness goals.

Example: Use a pedometer to track your steps or a heart rate monitor to measure your cardiovascular effort during housework.

Examples of housework as exercise

Here are some examples of how you can turn common household chores into effective workouts:

Vacuuming

  • Exercise potential. Vacuuming provides a good cardiovascular workout and engages your arms, shoulders, and core.
  • Tips. Use long, sweeping motions and move quickly from room to room. Add lunges or squats as you vacuum to increase intensity.

Mopping

  • Exercise potential. Mopping engages your arms, shoulders, and core while providing a moderate cardiovascular workout.
  • Tips. Use a wide stance and incorporate lunges as you mop. Alternate between left and right hand to balance the workout.

Gardening

  • Exercise potential. Gardening involves lifting, bending, and reaching, providing a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups.
  • Tips. Use proper lifting techniques when handling heavy bags of soil or plants. Incorporate squats and lunges as you work.

Washing windows

  • Exercise potential. Washing windows engages your arms, shoulders, and core while providing a light cardiovascular workout.
  • Tips. Use long, sweeping motions and switch arms frequently to balance the workout. Stand on your toes to engage your calves.

Cleaning bathrooms

  • Exercise potential. Scrubbing bathtubs, sinks, and toilets provides a vigorous upper-body workout and engages your core.
  • Tips. Use circular scrubbing motions and incorporate lunges or squats as you clean to increase intensity.

Making housework enjoyable

Play music

Listening to upbeat music can make housework more enjoyable and help you maintain a brisk pace. Create a playlist of your favourite songs to keep you motivated.

Example: Play energetic music that makes you want to dance as you clean, turning your chores into a fun workout session.

Set goals

Set specific goals for your housework sessions, such as completing a certain number of tasks or working for a set amount of time. This can provide a sense of accomplishment and keep you focused.

Example: Set a goal to clean the kitchen and living room in 30 minutes, and challenge yourself to complete the tasks within the time frame.

Use a timer

Using a timer can help you stay on track and ensure you are working at a steady pace. Set a timer for each task and try to complete it before the timer goes off.

Example: Set a timer for 10 minutes and focus on vacuuming one room. When the timer goes off, move on to the next task.

Get creative

Find creative ways to add variety to your housework routine. This can include dancing to music, doing star jumps, or incorporating fun challenges.

Example: Challenge yourself to clean one room using only one hand, or see how quickly you can complete a task without compromising quality.

Involve the family

Involving family members in housework can make it more enjoyable and provide an opportunity for bonding. Create team challenges or assign tasks to different family members.

Example: Organise a family cleaning competition with prizes for the most tasks completed or the most creative cleaning method.

Tips for successfully adapting your routine

Schedule housework workouts

Treat housework as you would any other workout by scheduling specific times for these activities. This ensures consistency and helps you stay committed to your fitness goals.

Example: Set aside 30 minutes each day for housework workouts, and stick to this schedule as you would with a gym session.

Prioritise high-intensity tasks

Focus on high-intensity tasks that provide the most physical benefits. Prioritising these activities ensures you get the most out of your housework workouts.

Example: Tasks like mopping, scrubbing floors, and garden work are more physically demanding and provide a better workout compared to lighter tasks like dusting.

Warm-up and cool down

Just like with traditional exercise, it’s important to warm up before and cool down after housework workouts to prevent injury and promote recovery.

Example: Spend a few minutes stretching or doing light cardio before starting housework, and stretch again after finishing to relax your muscles.

Stay hydrated

Keep a water bottle handy and stay hydrated during housework workouts, especially if you’re engaging in vigorous activities.

Example: Take regular water breaks to ensure you stay hydrated and maintain your energy levels.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your activities as needed. If you experience pain or discomfort, take a break and modify your tasks to avoid injury.

Example: If you feel strain in your back while lifting heavy objects, stop and ask your GP or physio to examine your back.

Final thoughts

Reframing housework as exercise is an effective way to stay active, improve your fitness, and maintain a clean and organised home.

By increasing the intensity of your movements, engaging multiple muscle groups, and incorporating proper form, you can transform mundane chores into valuable workouts.

Making housework enjoyable with music, goal-setting, and family involvement further enhances the experience.

With the right approach, you can seamlessly integrate physical activity into your daily routine, achieving your health and fitness goals while maintaining a clean living environment.

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