Double-Duty Exercise Opportunities

Woman washing car, laughing

You know how tough it can be to find time to work out. Jam-packed schedules and never-ending chores don't seem to leave much time for taking care of yourself.

But a hectic life is no reason to forgo your daily workout. Especially since the benefits of moving your body are enormous. With a little creativity, you can make exercise part of your routine no matter how long your to-do list is.

Use this simple plan to sneak some calorie-burning intensity into your daily chores.

Pick Up the Pace

The key to turning any household task into exercise is to pick up the pace or increase intensity and sustain it for as long as comfortably possible without taking a break.

So if you have to clean the floors, throw on some upbeat music, and put some major muscle behind your mopping. And set yourself a goal to see if you can finish within a certain time limit. This will help you keep the activity intense enough to count it as exercise.

Get Creative

Some activities, such as weeding or raking, already require a high level of energy. But turning up the burn on other less intense activities, like washing dishes or dusting, may require a little more ingenuity.

Try these three creative ways to turn everyday chores into a workout. Adding these boosters could help you burn up to 180 extra calories per half hour of activity.

Dirty Dish Dips

Don't let a mountain of dishes prevent you from working out when you could take care of both at the same time. Start the dishes, and then every few minutes, stop to do some dirty dish dips:

  • Areas worked: chest, arms.
  • Starting position: Face the sink, hands on the edge of the countertop, arms straight; position feet slightly farther than arms-length away from the counter so that your body is at a slight angle.
  • Action: Without bending at your waist, slowly bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the counter. Dip your chest toward the counter as far as comfortably possible before returning to your starting position. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Tip: Make sure the counter and your hands are dry and you're wearing shoes that won't slip.

Backyard Twists

Raking the yard is already a great workout. Do it for half an hour and you'll burn about 171 calories, which is close to what you'd expend by running a mile. Boost the calorie burn with this twist:

  • Areas worked: arms, shoulders, stomach, back, and sides.
  • Starting position: Rake gripped in both hands, right hand lowest on the rake handle; arms extended to make a long rake stroke.
  • Action: Reach the rake out as far as you can, and pull debris back toward your left foot by taking long, steady strokes while twisting your hips and upper body to the left. Do half of your raking with this motion, and then move your left hand below your right on the rake handle and do the rest with a left-to-right twisting motion.
  • Tip: Start by raking for only a few minutes with this motion and work your way up as you get stronger. This motion works well when sweeping floors, too. Consult your healthcare provider first if you have back problems.

Squeaky Clean Squats

Whether you're mopping the floor, washing the car, or scrubbing windows, you can get a lower body workout with a couple of buckets half-filled with water:

  • Areas worked: arms, thighs, buttocks.
  • Starting position: Stand with one bucket handle gripped in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart; back, arms, and legs straight.
  • Action: Keep your arms straight down at your sides while you slowly squat by bending at the knee and hip joints. Lower yourself until your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground, then return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
  • Tips: To avoid injury, keep your knees centered over your toes when squatting, do not allow your thighs to dip beyond parallel to the ground, and keep your back straight.

Adding Up the Minutes

It takes only a few extra minutes to turn a routine chore into a calorie-burning exercise. And those minutes add up toward the RealAge minimum exercise recommendation for optimal health -- at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

Top ten household chores for burning calories*

  1. Moving furniture = 225 calories
  2. Scrubbing floors = 189 calories
  3. Raking leaves = 171 calories
  4. Gardening = 162 calories
  5. Mowing the lawn = 162 calories
  6. Washing the car = 153 calories
  7. Cleaning windows = 153 calories
  8. Vacuuming = 84 calories
  9. Washing dishes = 76 calories
  10. Doing laundry = 72 calories

*Estimations based on a 150-pound person and 30 minutes of activity

Always supplement your exercise routine with longer bouts of cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, whenever possible. But on days when time is scarce and the to-do list is long, remember that it's important to make exercise a priority. Doing your chores with a little extra energy and vigor is a great way to multitask.

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