November 2021

How Housework Can Help You Meet Your Exercise Goals


Getting the recommended amount of physical activity can be a challenge. But what you might not realize is that many chores around the house and yard count toward your weekly total. Here’s a look at some double-duty tasks that can give you both a nicer home and better health.

What counts as exercise?

Anything that gets you moving more is good for you. That includes swapping out sitting for doing light chores such as dusting. But the greatest health benefits come from doing activities of moderate to vigorous intensity.

Moderate-intensity activities are about as taxing as walking at a brisk pace. At this level of effort, you are breathing harder than usual, but you can easily carry on a conversation. Chores that might fall into this category include:

  • Mopping or vacuuming floors

  • Sweeping the garage or patio

  • Raking the yard

  • Pushing a lawn mower

  • Working in a garden

Vigorous-intensity activities are more demanding, similar to running. When you are working this hard, you can only say a few words before you need to take a gulp of air. Chores that might fall into this category include:

  • Carrying groceries upstairs

  • Shoveling dirt or snow

Most people should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. All kinds of activities that make you breathe harder and get your heart beating faster count—even chores you need to do anyway. Doing as little as 5 minutes at a time can add up to health benefits.

Sweeping away inactivity

These tips can help you be productive and keep moving at the same time.

Talk with your healthcare provider. Ask about the best intensity and amount of activity for you. If you have a chronic health condition, check whether there are any particular activities or movements you should avoid.

Pick up the pace for increased intensity. You know how a brisk walk takes more effort than a leisurely stroll? The same is true when you sweep, mop, or rake briskly.

Add elbow grease for better weight control. A 150-pound person might burn 150-240 calories per hour doing light cleaning. But that same person may burn 324-432 calories per hour doing hard cleaning or heavy yardwork.

Get around—finally!—to that big project. If you have put off reorganizing your closet or cleaning out your garage, consider doing it now. Lifting and moving objects can be a good strength workout. Other tasks that help keep your muscles strong include digging in the yard and hauling garden supplies. Just be safe about it. Don’t strain to lift something that’s too heavy for you or try to carry too much in one load.

By combining chores with exercise, you can check two items off your to-do list. You’ll have more time—and more strength and energy—for the things you enjoy.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.