Clean Away The Calories

cleaning supplies

How many calories can you burn doing housework? Our latest feature has ideas for losing weight around the house. We also talk to a fitness expert, who offers his thoughts on varying your exercise routine, and keeping yourself active once you start. Take a look at our tips for working your body while you clean your house.

Did you know you can burn as many as 170 calories in one hour of mopping? The average person spends around 15 hours a week keeping the house in order, and these daily chores often involve medium-intensity cardio and strength training. So can you turn housework into a workout?

Figure It Out

Here are a few examples of jobs you can do around the house, and how far they go to help keep you in shape. Please note that these figures are worked out for the average person, and will vary.


The weight of pushing the machine back and forth will work your arms, and with a large enough floor space you can improve your daily number of steps. While vacuuming might feel like more than enough for you, it isn’t enough for your carpet – Rug Doctor recommends you give your carpet a deep clean at least once a year!

Moving furniture and carrying boxes

Lift with your legs and tone towards the perfect squatter’s bottom! This is also a great way to clear your carpets for a deep clean. If you’re moving things up and down the stairs then you could be burning as much as 544 calories per hour. If you feel like a change of home layout this could be for you.

Remember, when lifting things in the home, make sure to use safe lifting techniques.

Watering plants

Of course, unless you have a very green thumb, it might not take you so long to water your plants. But why not move your potted plants around to help them catch the light better? How about doing some watering can bicep curls as you move around? Studies also suggest that caring for plants aids mental health and reduces stress.

Putting away household items while walking around

It’s good to know that even when you’ve finished for the day, you can burn a little more putting your things away.

For the less ambitious, studies estimate you can burn around 56 calories per hour just watching TV. It’s not going to make you the next Charles Atlas, but it might make you feel a bit better as you get through your DVD box sets!

An Expert’s Opinion

We were lucky enough to ask Paul Stainthorpe, author of the Father Fitness blog, for his thoughts on how housework helps to keep us fit and what small things he does around the house to stay in shape.

“Housework is actually a very underrated exercise. I work up a sweat just doing the vacuuming! Running around after two small kids also helps, haha.”

It does – an estimated 272 calories worth of help per hour! Filling time you’d otherwise spend waiting with short bursts of exercise also helps to improve your fitness. If you’re doing something that involves standing around, like washing dishes or taking a phone call, try doing some calf raises as you go. You could also try adding lunges or squats while cleaning the carpet or doing laundry. What about people that struggle to find the time to stay active?

“I’m sorry, but there are 24 hours in every day, and I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t have the time to be active. The average person watches TV for just over three hours a day. You’re only talking about 3-4 sessions a week for 30-40 minutes a session.”

Many people like to stretch before and after working out. It can aid your ability to bend, flex and reach. If you intend on working on your fitness, you may wish to start your routine with a few stretches.

“Stretches are very, very, very important. You reduce the risk of injury and you will also notice bigger improvements with your training through stretching.”

Mix It Up

Make sure to mix things up and keep your routines interesting. As the weather gets warmer, maybe start to make use of the garden. Pulling weeds or washing the car all work your body, and being out in the fresh air will give you a new space to enjoy. Paul gave us some great insights on the importance of varying your exercise routines:

“Your body is clever and remembers what you do. You may ache from one gym session to the next if you don’t vary your workouts. Keep the body guessing by mixing it up and reap the rewards.”

So take care to vary your routines to keep things fresh, and work your whole body. If you’re giving yourself a housework workout, why not single out one room of the house to work on each day? Write up a list of jobs that you’d need to do for each room. If you need ideas, take a look at Rug Doctor’s cleaning checklist, which breaks jobs down room by room. Try to make each list work a different part of your body, and build up a number of routines that you can switch between through the week.

Keep It Up

Whether working out at home or in the gym, many people who promise they’ll make an effort to get fit seem to give up a few weeks in. This is especially true of people making New Year’s resolutions. So why do so many people say they’ll start exercising in the New Year? And why do so many struggle to keep at it?

“I hear people saying in October that they’re going to start eating healthier and exercising more in January. Why wait until January? A New Year could mean a “new you” though, so I won’t knock the concept completely.

“I was reading something just yesterday that said most people will have stopped already! I think people set unrealistic goals. Everyone wants results quickly and when they don’t drop a stone in January they give up.”

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Before you rush out to buy new running shoes, ask yourself what your goals are. Also keep in mind that if you haven’t been working out in a while, you might want to get back into it at a lower level and work your way up.

“It’s an old-fashioned saying that you shouldn’t run before you can walk. A fast-paced walk still gets the heart rate up, so start like this and gradually build it up. If you’re going to the gym, start with a lighter weight and fewer reps. Build it up over the next month, increasing both of these things. Starting off slowly will reduce the risk of injury too.”

So don’t go into your new fitness regime planning on running marathons on day one, and don’t be discouraged if you can’t. As long as you’re working towards your goals, just focus on being better than you were the day before, and up the intensity as you need to.

Polish It Off

We couldn’t let Father Fitness get away from the Rug Doctor without giving him a quick quizzing about his housecleaning routine, as well as his fitness routine! First things first, what’s Paul’s least favourite piece of housework?

“Dusting. I didn’t need to think about that reply, haha.”

It’s clear that Father Fitness spends plenty of time working on his body, but just how much time does he spend working on his house?

“Very little. I do the hoovering in our house, though. It could do with being done now actually!”

We didn’t want to deprive Paul of 170 burnt calories worth of vacuuming, so we thought we’d leave it there!

If you, like many others, have tried to get fit in the past but struggled to keep at it, take Paul’s advice. Set realistic goals, and make sure to keep your routines varied to get the most out of them and keep up the effort in 2017! We hope we’ve helped inspire you to count the calories you burn off, and that you’ll start to look at new ways to work out around the house.

Remember, while housework helps to keep away the calories, it should not be your only source of exercise. Please use this guide as part of a healthy and active lifestyle.