How Working Around the House Can Be a Workout

Gardening, cleaning, and simply climbing stairs in your home can have a huge payoff for your heart and overall health.

a young man and his young daughter enjoy getting exercise while sweeping the floors of their home

Medically reviewed in February 2022

Updated on May 5, 2022

Want to get enough exercise to help manage your cholesterol levels, but can't seem to fit a trip to the gym into your day? Here's good news: You don't necessarily have to follow a structured workout program to reap the rewards, as long as you get enough physical activity in your overall daily routine.

Climbing stairs at home may help you lower your LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides, according to a study published in 2021 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

In the study, 50 female volunteers in Germany took part in an eight-week exercise program. The volunteers started out by climbing 108 feet of stairs twice per day, and gradually built up to five times per day. By the end of the study, volunteers’ LDL and triglycerides dropped significantly, and it didn’t seem to make a difference whether they climbed stairs in a gym or at home.

Other daily activities add up, too.

Here’s about how many calories a 150-pound person burns in 30 minutes of doing a variety of household chores:

  • Moving furniture: 205 calories
  • Shoveling snow: 205 calories
  • Gardening: 170 calories
  • Playing with kids at the playground: 136 calories
  • Scrubbing floors: 136 calories
  • Raking leaves: 136 calories
  • Mowing the lawn: 136 calories
  • Washing the car: 136 calories
  • Cleaning windows: 136 calories
  • Cooking: 68 calories
  • Washing dishes: 68 calories

Keep in mind that calories burned can vary from person to person and can depend on things like your weight, sex, and age. Try to rack up at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity—such as brisk walking—at least five days per week, with muscle strengthening activities like lifting heavy loads on two of those days.

And you don't have to do all your calorie-burning movement at once. Splitting it up into 10-minute bouts works, too.

Article sources open article sources

Michael E, White MJ, Eves FF. Home-Based Stair Climbing as an Intervention for Disease Risk in Adult Females; A Controlled Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(2):603. Published 2021 Jan 12.
Calorie Control Council. Get Moving! Calculator. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity for Different Groups. Last reviewed July 29, 2021.

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