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Household chores: A clean sweep for your fitness

Household chores: A clean sweep for your fitness

Though household chores can't replace a structured daily workout routine, they supplement your fitness journey by helping burn calories, enhance mood and strengthen the muscles

Movement is the secret to leading a healthy life. While the emphasis is (rightfully so) on a daily exercise routine to enhance fitness, doing household chores – which includes physical exertion and movement –can be a ‘workout’ too. Not only do the chores ensure adequate movement throughout the day, but they also tone the muscles (depending on the exertion) besides regulating the mood and general wellbeing. They help burn more calories as well.

Household chores such as sweeping, mopping, cleaning the dishes or gardening can help keep your day structured. In addition, completing these tasks leaves you with a sense of order and control. It releases endorphins (hormones produced in the brain by the pituitary gland) which are natural painkillers, mood regulators and facilitate overall wellbeing. Cleaning calms us, provides satisfaction and distracts us from negative thoughts.

Benefits of cleaning chores

Sweeping and mopping engage and work the muscles and joints around the core, the lower back and the hips. Mopping the floor gives isolated workout to the lower body since it is done in a squatted or bent/flexed position.

“Younger people who have strong and healthy joints can mop the floor in a kneeling position,” says Dr Bela Sharma, additional director, internal medicine at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram. “Other positions like squatting (sitting on the haunches) help strengthen the quadriceps and hamstrings.”

Those who cannot mop while sitting can use a mop stick which also engages the core and the upper arm. One must be mindful about bending over too much as it could strain and injure the back. Instead of bending over, sweeping or mopping the floor in a standing or a squatted position is recommended.

Get fit while doing the dishes

Cleaning dishes is a relaxing experience. It also helps develop hand-eye coordination and gives a sedate workout to the arms too. However, it could add strain to your body, especially if the sink is too low.

“While cleaning dishes, one can have footstool [one leg on the ground, the other leg on the footstool],” recommends Jagmohan Kumar, senior physiotherapist at Back 2 Fitness, New Delhi. “If the height of the sink is too low, it is advised to get a highchair/seat while cleaning the dishes to avoid pressure on the legs and the lower back.”

Health benefits of gardening

Besides leaving you happy and energised, gardening helps in strengthening the shoulder and upper back muscles. It is also a good lower body exercise since you must squat or sit while performing chores such as digging the soil or pruning leaves. Watering the plants is also a strengthening activity.

Gardening helps you connect with nature. Since it involves being outdoors and exposed to sunlight, you get a healthy dose of Vitamin D as well.

“Gardening is not recommended for those who have high blood pressure, heart-related conditions and respiratory issues as it involves lifting pots, being in a sustained position and exposure to season,” says Kumar.

Chores not a replacement for exercise

Like all types of physical exertion, experts suggest taking it easy while doing chores. “While doing household chores, take frequent breaks,” says Kumar. “Starting small and listening to the body is recommended. It is advised to stretch to prevent muscle and bone pain.”

It is important to loosen up the body before starting, especially during winter. “The body does not like sudden transitions and going to extreme ranges,” adds Kumar. “Stretches and walking are recommended before doing household chores.”

Remaining in one posture – either in a totally flexed or bent position – can also do harm. The solution is to be mobile, change positions and maintain balance.

Sweeping and mopping have fewer benefits compared to any form of workout. So, they should not be an alternative to exercise. “Alongside household chores, exercises like wall push-ups [upper body], walking or taking the stairs [lower body] and bridge exercise [for spine] help strengthen muscles which are engaged while performing daily activities,” says Kumar. “This helps avoid injuries and improve fitness.”

Both Kumar and Dr Sharma suggest supplementing household chores with activities such as walking, dancing, skipping, cycling, or swimming to work the body.


  • Performing household chores (sweeping, mopping, cleaning dishes and gardening) releases endorphins which aid overall wellbeing. It helps tone and strengthen the muscles too.
  • It is important to loosen up the body before starting household chores, especially during winter.
  • Household chores are not a replacement for a regular workout schedule with activities such as walking, running, swimming, or cycling.

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