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houseworkFeeling bad because you didn’t get much exercise today? OK, so tell us what you did do. Chances are, if you had a day at home catching up on the housework, you’ll have been much more active than you think.

Chores such as vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry and mowing the lawn all work muscles and burn energy. Granted, half a day’s housework isn’t the same as going for a run or spending a couple of hours in the gym. But getting on with chores at home can burn up to 315 calories an hour, keep us in shape and help improve flexibility too.

Activities like sweeping, mopping and vacuuming will all help to stretch and tone the muscles in our arms and legs. Scrubbing the bathroom or kitchen and cleaning windows works the bicep and tricep muscles in our arms. And washing the car by hand works our arms and our abdominal muscles.

Gardening’s great for toning too – raking wet leaves in particular mimics weight training as we pull against resistance to rake them into a pile. As well as targeting arms, gardening jobs such as planting and weeding help to strengthen and tone our thigh and buttock muscles too. And 30 minutes of pushing and dragging a lawn mower is equivalent to 30 minutes of jogging in terms of exertion and calories burned.

And getting on with jobs at home is something couples can do together – and it’s far cheaper than a joint gym membership! And the housework is shared too! It really is a win-win situation.

It’s important to be aware of how our bodies are moving while we’re getting on with household chores to avoid muscle strain or injury. Try to vary tasksto ensure you’re not working in the same position for long periods of time which may strain or overuse certain muscles. For example, don’t sweep and mop the whole house in one go – instead break up the mopping job by some dusting or folding laundry.

And here’s a reminder to take care when lifting – bend your knees, avoid twisting your back and lift the load close to your body. And don’t be tempted to overload yourself – avoid carrying all the laundry upstairs in one go. Instead, make two trips – and burn extra calories!

Clearly, getting on with chores at home doesn’t give us a cardiovascular workout and it’s still important to find time for activities that raise our heart rate. This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or heading out for a run – there are plenty of other ways to become more active a little bit at a time.

Read our blog post on ways to introduce a little bit of exercise into your day.

Read our blog post on dance for exercise.