Work it, work it... housework it

A survey published last year by over-50s group Saga revealed that a housewife in the 1950s burnt about 1,000 calories on her daily round of housework, compared with just 560 calories today.

Work it, work it... housework it

This was doubtless helped along by the inert domestic behaviour of a generation of chair-dwelling Don Drapers waiting for dinner to arrive in the whirl of an apron and a puff of purple smoke. Still, the lack of modern appliances also played their part in trimming the average waist to 24 inches and most female weight to the area of 9st 12lbs.

It’s hard to get excited about housework, however flab-defying it might be. Still, deliberately engaging with it as a manual task and maintaining some regularity can make ten-minute domestic work-outs a more physical and positive part of your day. Wear comfortable clothes that move with you, supportive shoes and warm up gradually before doing any physically demanding tasks.

DELTOID DUSTING — CALORIES IN ONE HOUR: 173

Good wood furniture needs waxing once, tops, twice a year with a beeswax rich preparation. Rub energetically in circular motions to melt a modest smear of wax, and combine with elbow grease. The rest of the time a wipe with a lint-free cloth is all you need. Microfibre has an inherent charge that will lift dust and keep your atmosphere cleaner or save your old cotton sports socks as a skin-protecting, up-cycled duster. The damp duster is a skivvy’s best friend and a good muscle toner for the deltoid area at the top of the shoulders. Using just water with a dash of white vinegar, you don’t have to worry about what you’re pulling into your lungs either. Exaggerate your normal dusting movements for best effect.

BATHROOM BLITZ, CLEANING WINDOWS AND OTHER WIDE SURFACES — CALORIES IN ONE HOUR: 180.

Keep a dedicated nylon scrunchie type cleaner and a microfibre cloth hanging in the shower. When you’ve finished your ablutions and nicely warmed up take the shower head down and rinse the whole cabinet and/or bath. Wipe the tiles and glass down before you get out. Before putting a lightly-used hand towel in the laundry, use it to enthusiastically polish up the taps and basin up and over.

Towels that are aired properly don’t harbour bacteria. Snap them out as smoothly as possible. If the linens get smelly, throw 100g of bicarbonate into the machine with liquid (rather than powder which can gather in the pile) for a monthly deep clean at 60C. Hang laundry out on good days. This will save you money and together with the weight of the basket and stoop and stretch of putting out the load will subtly work on those dreaded ‘bingo-wings’ with some resistance training.

UTILITY WORK, IRONING — CALORIES IN ONE HOUR: 113 MOP WORK 238

Children were sent to us by God for the sole purpose of emptying dishwashers, a duty neatly dove-tailed to the release of pocket money. Reaching for dishes and standing on tip-toe to access top shelves tones up the abdomen and calves of adults too.

Stand as you iron while listening to the radio, a ’50s favourite. Keep the basket on the floor and bend down to get individual items.

Mop makers Vileda have claimed in their in-house study that using an old-style, wring-out mop for floor cleaning soaks up 238 calories per hour, the equivalent of hitting the gym bike for 60 minutes. Mopping is good for cardiovascular health as it perceptively raises the heart rate as you whip and wring. Every now and then put on some knee pads and give hard floors a hands-and-knees clean. Fabulous for core strengthening. Use alternative hands and try more challenging positions such as a squat.

STAIRMASTER: STAIR CLIMBING AT MODERATE PACE PER HOUR — CALORIES 516

If you’re using stairs, going down or up, always carry something. There’s always laundry, misplaced clothes or something that needs shifting, and it adds a little weight to the adventure of climbing the wooden hill. Divide your upstairs and downstairs work into 10-minute projects to multiply those calories-killing climbs. Pull the bed together every morning. It will instantly give the room a lift and it takes strength and suppleness to thump pillows, yank sheets flat and clamber across the mattress. If you haven’t worn something for a year, bar your wedding dress or formal suit, donate it. Lightening the load in the wardrobe is spiritually uplifting and makes room for newcomers (hopefully in smaller sizes). Once a week, chuck open the windows and let a cross breeze through these dustiest of rooms. As you warm up, you won’t feel the chill.

FLOOR EXERCISES. CALORIES BURNT IN ONE HOUR OF VACUUMING: 193; WALKING: 287

The variety of positions demanded by sweeping and vacuum work has some remarkable physical dips and posturing. Put on some upbeat music and learn to love it.

Dance with your partner of the beater brush if you fancy. The vacuum can work hamstrings, quadriceps and gluteal muscles with slightly stylised lunges.

Sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda over the carpets a couple of hours before you vacuum to freshen them up and mark where you go. Have the kids join you in a quick blitz, getting things off the floor and to where they should go in what will prove fast-and-furious, heart-racing, hysterical fun. When you’re fed up of all that, get outside and obliterate up to 300 calories in one hour of gardening or weeding.

Calorie values are based on a 37-year-old female, 5ft 5, weighing 12 stone. Those who weigh more than this will burn more calories. weightlossresources.co.uk

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