Housework for exercise
September 20, 2007
Housework can be hard work depending on your age and agility.
If you are three years old, looking under the bed for a lost sock is easy. At fifty, you will find another pair of socks and write off the lost one.
I know how it works, I’ve been three and I’ve been fifty. The older you get, the less you bend. I dug out a handy little chart that tells me how many calories you burn while dusting and I worked out a scheme to save your back while you sweep.
There are six areas of cleaning that are constantly repeated: Making beds, vacuuming or sweeping, dusting, dishes, scrubbing floors or windows and cleaning bathrooms. I lumped two of the topics together because the use the same arm motion.
Let’s take the bed making first. When you strip the bed, sit on it and release the corners or edges first, and strip the pillow cases. Then, when you are finished and ready to pick up the sheets, the whole thing is loose and rolls up easily in one package. Reverse the process when you make the bed. If you have to, finish with a bent over position bend your knees. If you use a quilt instead of blankets it will save a lot of extra bending.
When you vacuum, the push-pull movement will affect your shoulders and back. Most people use the vacuum like a scrub brush, not letting the automatic part of the machine do the work. When you sweep or vacuum try to keep your shoulders low and relaxed. Push is easier than pull, so use a push broom and vacuum with a push movement. Go around, instead of back and forth. And use your legs for the movement instead of your lower back.
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Dusting is not particularly hard unless you insist on standing while you dust. If the sofa is handy, sit and dust the table. Sit on the floor if you have to shine the rocker. Anything that requires overhead movement can be made easier with a short flat stool.
When you do your dishes, don’t lean into the counter or you’ll have a backache when you finish. There are special chairs made for counter work, so sit and do the dishes.
When you put them in the dishwasher, sit on a stool or bend your knees. If you stand at the sink, bend one knee to release the stress on your lower back.
Bathrooms are one of the hardest areas to clean without stressing the body. Start topside and do standing cleaning first. Then work down using a chair to sit on. Put a chair in the shower if you have walls to wash. Again, if you have to bend over, fold up like an accordion and bend those knees.
Finally, we come to the windows and floors, with lots of shoulder and arm movement. Alternate arm use and stand or lean over your work for easy leverage instead of extension. Use a pad for your knees and do windows with a regular window washer tool to save your shoulders.
Sweeping or vacuuming floors uses about 200 calories per hour. Dusting, (energetically?) burns the same. If you polish furniture, or make beds it’s an extra 40 calories. Your house cleaning day will burn about 260-300 calories per hour.
• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.