How Healthy Is Housework?

Now that you can just whip out your phone and open up any number of apps or sign on to their accompanying websites, more and more people are taking it upon themselves to track their physical activity. Based on this information, you can estimate both how many calories you need to eat and how many you generally burn. These logs can be powerful motivational tools but, used incorrectly, they can also be a major determent to your fitness goals. As it turns out, many people give themselves just a little too much credit when it comes to their daily activities.


The Potential of Housework

Even when you’re not actually working out, you’re probably working yourself pretty hard. You could be carrying groceries or moving furniture to clean or raking leaves or even just chasing the kids around but either way, you’re still living an active lifestyle. Since the general recommendations to maintain a healthy heart is a modest 150 minutes, or 2.5 hours, of moderate to vigorous activity per week, most people add those chores to their log.

Unfortunately, that vague “moderate to vigorous” stipulation seems to be a stumbling block. Information collected in the Sport & Physical Activity Survey conducted by the British University of Ulster suggests that a large portion of people tend to overestimate their physical activity, showing that many don’t fully understand the guidelines.

Another interesting bit of information appeared when the researchers excluded housework from the survey. Once the subjects were no longer allowed to count it, the number of people who met the guidelines for activity plummeted from 43 percent to 20 percent.


The Struggle for Definition

Unfortunately, a brief look at the definitions provided by organizations like the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control, don’t really help much. Scientifically speaking, these levels of intensity are defined by METs, a measure of metabolic activity that the average person has no accessible means of clocking.

So, we’re left with more rustic methods of deciding on what intensity level we’re working at. To confuse the matter even more, these levels are different from person to person and could even change for an individual over the course of time.

For example, walking a mile might by impossibly difficult for you now, sending your heart rate through the roof. In a year, though, after you’ve been exercising regularly and watching your diet, will that walk take the same amount of effort?


Lessons Learned

So what’s the take away from this survey?

Your average, everyday tasks may not be difficult enough to make the cut towards your weekly exercise quota. Remember that the human body is remarkably talented at adaptation and your chores aren’t likely challenging you, even if they once did. It’s better to be safe than sorry so take the time to add other, more intense activities to your routine.