"There's just not enough time." It's one of the most common excuses for not exercising regularly—and one of the most easily debunked. If you really are too busy to get to the gym, you don’t even have to leave your house to fit in a good workout. There are countless ways to combine exercise with daily tasks.
Statistics show that women spend more than an hour each day on cleaning, laundry and other household tasks, and that's likely to increase during spring cleaning season. Why not seize the opportunity to turn your to-do list items into major calorie burners? Whether it's routine vacuuming or scrubbing windows, nearly any household chore can double as a workout.
Carolyn Barnes, founder of the cLEAN Momma Lifestyle, has designed a series of workouts that burn more calories in less time by combining exercise and household tasks. "You can lose weight, boost metabolism and increase energy simply by applying intention, proper form and some elbow grease to your everyday chores," she says.
Let's take a look at how nine common cleaning tasks can help you get in shape, and approximately how many calories you can expect to burn.
Sweeping – 270 calories per hour
For every 60 minutes spent tidying your floors, you'll burn the equivalent of a small piece of cheesecake, while working your arms, back and core.
Fit Clean Challenge: Put the broomstick over your shoulders and behind your head. Gripping each end, twist your torso to the right and then the left for 10 to 12 repetitions to work your obliques.
Mopping – 170 calories per hour
If you use an upright mop, the back-and-forth motion will work your arms, shoulders and core. For some extra glute and leg work, sprinkle in some squats and lunges (but be cautious of slippery floors). Add an extra balance challenge by lifting one foot as you mop and then switching to the other side. If you mop on your hands and knees, you'll burn an extra 20 calories for a total of 190 per hour.1. Take two damp rags and place one under each foot. If you're cleaning your floors, add a little bit of soap to the water and wring it out. For hardwood, use whatever oil you like, but go easy on the amount to prevent falling.
Fit Clean Challenge: Carolyn recommends a "taskercise" called the “Rag Drag”:
2. Get into a plié position (it’s a ballet term defined as a bending of the knees outward with the back held straight) with rags under each foot and your feet pointing forward, knees slightly bent and tummy muscles engaged.
3. Slide your left foot out and bring it back to the right five times. You can either put your hands on your hips or extend them and do tight circles for an extra burn.
4. Now slide your right foot out and bring it back to the left five times.
"A huge part of this routine is learning how to keep your upper body limber and relaxed with loose arms, so you can create working hands that can cook, wash dishes or fold laundry while you're burning off those love handles and working the thighs," says Carolyn.
Vacuuming – 170 calories per hourAs you push the vacuum forward and back, you're working the biceps, triceps and shoulders, as well as the core. If it's not too awkward, switch arms now and then to work both arms. For best results, focus on posture and keep your core engaged.
Fit Clean Challenge: Carolyn uses a technique called the “Suck and Squat”:
1. Stand with your feet together while holding your vacuum. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, your abs are engaged and your spine is long and straight.
2. Start vacuuming. As you do so, lunge forward with your right foot. Your knee should not extend beyond your toes.
3. As you lunge, make sure you are anchored down by pushing your weight into your front heel, while thrusting your hips forward.
4. Vacuum in this position for a count of eight, then switch legs and repeat.
5. As you bring your vacuum in and out, use your obliques (side stomach muscles) and make sure your hips and shoulders are square.
Ironing – 88 calories per hour
The motion of pressing the iron down and across your clothes works your arms, shoulders and back, and burns that half-cup of oatmeal from breakfast.
Fit Clean Challenge: As you stand at the ironing board, sneak in some standing exercises. Some ideas include side bends to work your oblique muscles, calf raises or knee-to-elbow twists.
Folding or hanging laundry – 68 calories per hour
It might not feel like much work, but as you match up those socks and hang shirts, you're burning the equivalent of a quarter-cup of ice cream.
Fit Clean Challenge: As you fold, do squats or lunges to work the legs and glutes. For a quick cardio boost, pause every so often to do a few jumping jacks or squat jumps.
Scrubbing bathrooms and bathtubs – 190 calories per hour
Squatting down to clean bathtubs, toilets and floors works your glutes and quads as you clean.
Fit Clean Challenge: For an extra fitness boost, place your hands on the edge of a sink or countertop and do some push-ups between scrubs. (Make sure surfaces are dry so you don't lose your grip.)
Washing the car – 153 calories per hour
When you skip the automatic car wash and scrub off all that winter salt and grime by hand, you'll burn calories, work your muscles and get your heart rate up.
Fit Clean Challenge: Using a bucket for suds? Hold the full bucket in one hand at your waist, palm facing up, and lift it to your chest to work your bicep. After a beat, lower and repeat. After 10-12 reps, switch to your other hand. Make sure to keep your core engaged and your back straight.
Cleaning windows – 334 calories per hour
Removing a winter's worth of dirt and grime from your windows is no small feat—which is why you'll burn a whole meal's worth of calories per hour, while working the muscles in your arms, back and shoulders.
Fit Clean Challenge: Facing the window or mirror, get into a plié squat position with your toes pointing out and your feet a little more than shoulder width apart. Holding this position, spray the glass and wipe vigorously in a large clockwise motion for a count of 10, then counterclockwise before switching arms. Next, switch to a regular squat, as if you're sitting back in a chair, and wipe in a side to side motion with alternating arms. Keep your stomach muscles tight, your back straight and your weight in your heels.
Painting a room – 294 calories per hour
Ready to finally add some color to those blasé beige walls? The room isn't the only thing that will change. All that lifting, reaching and rolling will provide a serious workout, while burning the equivalent of a slice of pizza per hour. Painting is a combination of large, sweeping motions and small, precise touch-ups, and also involves plenty of squatting and stretching.
Fit Clean Challenge: Tighten your abdominals as you reach up to paint high spaces. Each time you need to load more paint on the brush or roller, squat instead of leaning down. Paint buckets can also double as weights for bicep curls or upright rows.
*Calorie-burning information based on person weighing 150 pounds.