We all understand the health benefits of regular exercise, but sometimes that’s not enough to persuade us to go to the gym to complete a workout.
Here’s a solution… Why not workout from home? Everyone is doing it now-a-days. This doesn’t mean that home workouts have to look like lifting a certain amount of weight for a set number of repetitions or walking at a specific speed on a predetermined incline.
There are plenty of household tasks that leave me sweating and breathing heavily just the same as a structured interval training workout would at the gym. If I am being honest, functional tasks around your home that need to be completed anyway are my all-time favorite ways to sneak a workout into my day.
Not to mention, the movements that are required to complete these everyday tasks are more natural to us than squatting weights or lifting dumbells. These more functional movements mimic our everyday body mechanics, protect muscles and joints along with putting less stress on the structural supports of our bodies.
Plus, the incidence of injury completing these tasks as replacement workouts is much less than that of the rate of gym injuries.
Here are some household tasks that I like to substitute for workouts:
Vacuuming is, in my opinion, the best household task to use as a replacement workout. There are so many components of this task that offer muscular and cardiovascular benefits.
The resistance that the vacuum provides as it skims across the flooring surface will stimulate so many of your major muscle groups (arms, core, legs). In addition, the constant grip required to hold and manipulate the vacuum handle strengthens the smaller muscles in your hands.
The constant steps back and forth offer that cardiovascular benefit that walking on a stairmill or treadmill would give you. This task encourages you to address your balance, posture and coordination skills, while strengthening simultaneously in order to get the job done.
Dusting dance party
This chore is by far the most fun! I turn on my music streaming service and dance to the beat of whatever song is in queue as I migrate from room to room dusting the furniture.
Dance moves usually include leaps, twirls, lunges, squats, high kicks, yoga poses, however the rhythm draws you to move. This increases the blood flow to your muscles, joints, heart and the brain. It can offer flexibility training as well by stretching your joints and muscles when reaching to dust that hard to get spot or holding that yoga pose.
I typically take a rest break during the transition to the next song on the playlist. When completed this way, the task can mimic a cardiovascular interval training workout by completing high-intensity bouts of exercises followed by intermittent rest periods.
Wretched window washing
I dread this task because it makes my shoulders burn like crazy. Rest breaks and alternating arms are a must during this chore. But what a good workout it is for your chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, and even hand muscles. This can help improve your posture and stability as well.
Washing windows targets muscular resistance, muscular endurance, and joint range of motion in your upper extremities. There is no exercise at the gym that can imitate the way this task makes your body work.
Fashionable furniture re-arrangement
Pushing that heavy couch to the other side of the room or lifting that cabinetry to another corner of the office is a great whole-body resistance exercise with added cardiovascular benefits.
The physiology behind this task (without getting too clinical) includes increased glucose uptake into your muscles to be converted into energy which means less glucose circulating in your bloodstream which has several health benefits of their own including muscle building, weight loss, diabetes, and heart disease prevention.
** Disclaimer: Of course, know your limits. Do not put yourself in harm’s way to complete these tasks. Ask for assistance when it is needed and always use proper body mechanics to protect your muscles and joints and to avoid injury.
Year-round yard work
Examples include: pulling weeds, raking leaves, planting shrubs/flowers, mowing the lawn.
The dreaded yard work (especially in the heat of the summer)! While being outside in the fresh air has its own benefits, doing yard work can provide similar benefits that a trip to the gym would.
Pulling weeds in the summertime can strengthen the small muscles of your hand, resulting in better overall grip strength. Raking leaves during the fall months and mowing the lawn in the evenings of summer are the complete total body workout while disguising a cardiovascular fitness component as well. Planting shrubs or flowers during the springtime requires lifting weighted tools, therefore strengthening your arms and hands.
Doing yard work is a productive way to strengthen a variety of muscles while immersed in the fresh air as compared to repetitively lifting dumbbells in the gym with no purpose.
Cardio car washing
Washing the car is a great endurance exercise as well as a good upper extremity range of motion task.
It requires that you wash and then rinse off the soap before it dries on the windshield, creating a sort of urgency to the task, pushing you to enhance your respiratory endurance similar to the way a jog would.
Reaching high and low to get to the roof and tires stretches those joints and gets them moving in ranges they typically don’t extend to on a regular basis. It provides many of the benefits that a yoga session would in those aspects.
Take Away Points
As a means to an end, with an end goal in mind (i.e. having a clean house), it makes the task more meaningful to attain and easier to complete knowing that there is a definite end and purpose to the struggle.
These household tasks require more physical fitness than we are led to believe. Completing household tasks may not look like your typical workout but, I can assure you that the components of a workout are disguised behind the more natural, functional body movements.
Next time you are washing your car or vacuuming your floors, think about how you feel (your heart rate, amount of sweat, your breathing rate) and compare that with how you typical feel during a trip to the gym. I am going to infer that both cases will be very similar.
The general rule of thumb: listen to your body (if you feel light headed, intense lack of breath, or pain with any activity, stop that activity immediately), take movement breaks throughout the day between long sitting bouts and don’t be discouraged when you can’t get all of the chores done in one day due to fatigue (lack of energy).
For insight on ways to target brain fitness, go see our previous blog post: 8 Ways to Get Your Brain In Shape
Nicole Wiggins, OTR/L (Occupational Therapist)