Housework 'not strenuous enough' for exercise targets

Woman contemplating housework

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Housework and DIY are not strenuous enough to count towards people's activity targets, a paper has found.

It had been thought they could count towards the recommended 150 minutes of moderately intense activity per week.

But the BMC Public Health study, which surveyed over 4,500 adults, found those who counted housework were heavier than those who did other activities.

Experts said activities only counted when they made breathing more rapid and the heart beat faster.

NHS recommendations do say housework does not count towards the 150-minute goal.

But the researchers in this paper say there has been a move towards promoting a "lifestyle approach" to physical activity - encouraging "domestic" activities in people who may not take part in sports or go to the gym.

And they warn that, while any activity is better than none, people should be aware that they still need to meet the moderate activity target on top.

Eating too much?

Participants completed a detailed interview about their activity levels, whether they played any sports or did formal exercise as well as their diet and smoking and drinking habits.

They were particularly asked about activity linked to looking after their homes.

Start Quote

Your exercise should make you breathe harder, feel warmer, and make your heart beat faster than usual. ”

End Quote Chris Allen, British Heart Foundation

Domestic housework in 10 minute bursts or more accounted for 36% of the reported moderate to vigorous physical activity people said they did.

But when weight and height were taken into account, researchers found that those who counted housework as exercise were heavier than people doing other exercise for the same amount of time.

Among women, just a fifth reached the weekly exercise target if housework was discounted.

The research team, which included experts from the Universities of Ulster, Sheffield Hallam and Wolverhampton as well as Sport Northern Ireland concluded: "Domestic physical activity accounts for a significant proportion of self-reported daily moderate to vigorous physical activity particularly among females and older adults.

"However such activity is negatively associated with leanness, suggesting that such activity may not be sufficient to provide all of the benefits normally associated with meeting the physical activity guidelines."

Eating too much?

Prof Marie Murphy, from the University of Ulster, who led the study, said: "Housework is physical activity and any physical activity should theoretically increase the amount of calories expended.

"But we found that housework was inversely related to leanness, which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate intensity physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity undertaken."

She added: "When talking to people about the amount of physical activity they need to stay healthy, it needs to be made clear that housework may not be intense enough to contribute to the weekly target and that other more intense activities also need to be included each week."

Chris Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Your exercise should make you breathe harder, feel warmer, and make your heart beat faster than usual.

"So, unless your household chores tick all these boxes, they won't count.

"If you're daunted by the prospect of a 150-minute target, think of it in 10-minute chunks.

"It doesn't necessarily mean forking out for a gym membership either - try a brisk walk on your lunch break or make a resolution to take the stairs rather than the lift each morning."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    160 Its not Mr Cameron who caused the recent energy price rises, but Mr Milliband. How daft is it to announce thet you will be freezing energy prices if elected!
    OF COURSE this was bound to provoke an instant energy price hike -the energy companies are making sure the price at which energy would be frozen would be as high as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    This would depend on how thorough the cleaning was. whisking a duster and waving a vacuum cleaner over the obvious surfaces is not thorough but it does. As women still do most of the domestic chores and raise children they would get enough exercise following a toddler around. Men do not do the basics thoroughly so it would not be enough.A day at work domestic chores and children is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    "Housework 'not strenuous enough' for exercise targets"

    That's why my wife does the housework wearing a backpack full of bags of sugar. And times herself to see if she can beat her previous record for completion.

    I sometimes mess the lounge up more than normal to give her an extra challenge.

    I'm a bit like the drill sergeant in those military movies, pushing her to ever greater achievements.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    The most shocking thing about this article is that the BBC have shown a picture of a woman, I would have thought the BBC would have shown a man cleaning.

    Wow... someone in the equality department has messed up, this is totally against BBC think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    '"Your exercise should make you breathe harder, feel warmer, and make your heart beat faster than usual. '

    Feel warmer ?

    Not many will be feeling warm again this winter after the recent price hikes in energy bills so we all better start rigorous house work.

    Thanks again for nothing but lining your chums pockets Mr Cameron

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I'm a 50 year old cleaner, work 5 hours a day and do own housework before and after I go to work. Of course it burns calories! I also walk, kayak and go to gym 3 times a week. If I was sat around all day like some of the people I work for I would be fat. As it is I have optimal blood pressure and I don't worry about eating chocolate or puddings, in fact I need the extra calories to keep going!

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    'I disagree that "housework was inversely related to leanness", as I'm evidence to the contrary.'

    You are a sample of one. The study was of > 4,500. It probably included a few who didn't fit the the pattern but in general those who did more non-housework exercise where leaner.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    No doubt the originator of this report does not do housework but lives in a flat with a lift that always works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Housework and DIY are not strenuous enough to count towards people's activity targets, a paper has found.

    Lol, try telling that to womens lib, try telling that to chamber maids & part time cleaners.
    Try telling that to builders/house maintenance workers.

    What DIY was measured. Wiring a plug or errecting a garden fence, or making a wooden gate.

    Please publish RELEVENT FACTS

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I probably do about 3-4 hours housewiork a day, split into chunks of 30 mins to an hour, and I definitely count that as exercise. My house is spotless, and I'm slim. I had a health check recently and the doctor said I was in excellent health, and its due to my healthy diet, housework and gardening. I disagree that "housework was inversely related to leanness", as I'm evidence to the contrary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Truly heart-warming article.......

    Up until now I'd been concerned that both the NHS's and University fundings were under threat from this and previous Govts.

    Obviously I worried over nothing if they have the ability to conduct this mindless drivel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    People complain the NHS doesn't have enough resources
    People complain when a group tries to provide information about disease prevention so the NHS can cope better.
    People think this doesn't apply to them
    People keep complaining the NHS doesn't have enough resources
    People are funny

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The headline on main UK News page...
    Housework 'does not help you loose weight'

    Every activity that uses energy, no matter how slight, helps you to loose weight, but this article is clearly saying that it doesn't count in the recommended activity. The two are very different.

    Come on BBC, how about some accuracy in your headlines.

  • Comment number 151.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Well if they got on with it, instead of drinking wine and talking with their friends, it may get a bit more strenuous and the house may actually get clean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    It's remarkable how much this stating-the-obvious type of 'science' gets on to the BBC these days. Good research is not getting the funding it needs with the funding bodies pandering to the media and their need for popular, simple stories. Did anyone really think that running a marathon and dusting the TV burns the same amount of calories prior to this article?

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    If you've got kids, or a lazy partner, then stress & heart rate increase as one forever cleans up after them.

    Maybe annoying telesales can also help, especially if constantly dropping whatever & (except baby) rushing to a ringing phone to hear someone say " I dont want to sell you anything, BUT"

    Excercise benefit also relates to effort, little effort, little benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    I take the elevator to the gym

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    And guess what? We all die anyway,

    Now, let's see. That's the kids have gone off to school, the dishes are done, a wash is on and one is hung up to dry. Time for a cup of tea and a sit down.

    Aaahhh... lovely....

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    If the Health and Safety Regulations allowed - we could whittle out a cudgel and go a hunting for our food - โคž ๐Ÿฒ ๐Ÿ˜‹


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