Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Health through Housework

By Tim Olds

We do more vigorous exercise through housework than walking, but is it enough to keep you in shape?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

I was skeptical, and my wife’s case wasn’t helped when I discovered that in Nazi Germany the women’s organisation, the Frauenschaft, sponsored a “Health through Housework” movement that combined household chores with Swedish gymnastics. Picture making the bed standing on one leg and you’ve pretty much got the idea. But she persisted: “Really, dear, you complain about the housework but science tells us it’s actually good for you.”

Scientists who should have better things to do have actually measured the energy cost of housework. Energy costs are typically expressed as multiples of resting metabolic rate, which is our rate of energy production when we’re just sitting still. Doing the laundry or cooking scores 2.0, ironing or shopping 2.3, serving food or general cleaning 2.5. By the time we get to mopping (3.5), weeding or raking (4.5) and mowing the lawn (5.5) we’re talking big metabolic bikkies – all this counts as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), like brisk walking (3.5), and goes towards knocking off the 150 minutes per week the Australian guidelines tell us we simply must get.

And people spend a lot of time doing this stuff. If you’re an Australian over 30 you’ll spend about 164 minutes each day doing housework of some form, indoor or out, and up to one-third of that counts as MVPA. In fact, we clock up more MVPA doing housework than walking...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.