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The Housework Workout — Here's How Many Calories You'll Actually Burn Cleaning

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

If you are an endurance athlete under lockdown you might be struggling to find ways to burn off the calories. Part of your daily routine might include extra cleaning round the house, unfortunately this doesn't count towards your training stress score. A new study confirms that household chores probably aren't the best form of exercise.

In the study, from Ireland, the more time people spent performing housework, the heavier they tended to be. The findings are somewhat illogical; even if mopping and tidying aren't the most intense workouts, they do require physical activity. But the researchers speculated that people assume they're getting a good workout via housework are overestimating the intensity, duration or calorie-burning potential of these chores. This may lead them to eat more or do other exercises less.

It's easy to fall for these get fit quick schemes, let's remember that people have been pushing the housework-as-exercise nonsense for quite a while.

Here's an excerpt from a Daily Mail article published in February 2013:

We have long been told that our unhealthy diet is why we are all too fat. But now, when it comes to women at least, researchers have a rather more controversial explanation for rising obesity - they are not doing enough housework.

I think part of the problem is that when people emphasise the exercise benefits of housework, they tend to note the number of calories burned per half hour or hour. You can burn 240 calories per hour sweeping the floor! Yeah, but who sweeps the floor for an hour? Providing you don't live in a palatial castle, it probably will take you 10 minutes - tops. Three if you live in a city apartment. If we apply these calorie-burning stats to the amount of time chores actually take to complete, here's what we get.

Vacuuming and Sweeping

Burns: 40 calories per 10 minutes (and that's sweeping vigorously)


Burns: 43 calories per 10 consecutive minutes


Burns: 33 calories per 10 minutes


Burns: 50 calories per 20 minutes (this is provided you don't nibble your way through meal prep like a normal human being)

Making the Bed

Burns: 11 calories per 5 minutes


Burns: 39 calories per 15 minutes

Loading the Dishwasher

Burns: 17.5 calories per 5 minutes

In conclusion, maybe you should do an extra 10 minutes on the trainer?

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