Getting Back to Basics
While you may be happy that you don't have to garden, clean your house, or live the life of your parents and grandparents, your body is not that happy about it. In fact, your body would be thrilled if you could live in the 1950s. Oh sure, no one wants you to be stuck cleaning and cooking all day, but a little bit of activity during the day would be the perfect way to stay in shape.
You might be surprised to learn that housewives in the 1950s burned over 1,000 calories more per day and consumed 1,000 calories less than women of today do, even though today's woman is certainly busier with a wider variety of activities. Fifty years ago, women spent three hours a day doing household chores, and walked an hour a day to do their shopping. They also ate healthier meals, with more vegetables, and had fewer snacks. In fact, the numbers reveal the truth: Women today eat an average of 2,178 calories a day, but only burn off 556 through daily activities. In 1952, the average woman ate 1,818 calories a day and burned 1,512 calories.
Now, does this mean you should give up your washing machine and dryer, your dishwasher, and your vacuum cleaner? Of course not. But it does serve as proof that our lifestyles have created the weight and health problems facing us today. Knowing that should inspire you to rearrange your life so that you get more activity. In truth, movement will help our bodies, not being sedentary.
Years ago, only wealthy people employed gardeners and landscapers, but today gardeners and landscapers work for everyone in the neighborhood, even in middle-class neighborhoods. And what are the owners — and kids — in these middle-class home doing while someone else is raking their leaves? Often, watching TV, eating, or surfing the Internet.
And that's a shame, because digging, raking, and planting are moderate-intensity activities, equivalent to taking a brisk walk. Even better? Tough gardening chores such as mowing the lawn with a push mower, chopping wood, and shoveling are comparable to skiing or playing doubles tennis. These activities do not replace true exercise routines, but they are a perfect way to reverse the curse of inactivity.
To make gardening safer, remember that when you're weeding or planting, bend at the knees rather than at the waist. Also, try to alternate your grip when using tools. Additionally, don't do too much. You shouldn't work longer in your garden than you would take a walk, for example. Finally, stretch when you need to and don't sit in one position for too long.
Gardening offers one more important benefit, though. It is psychologically uplifting. Being outside, growing food or flowers, interacting with nature, possibly working with other members of your family, and (sometimes literally) seeing the fruits of your labors are rewarding in ways other activities aren't. Of course, as with your other workouts, make sure you schedule your gardening and write it down in your calendar.
Now, this is a funny thing. These days, many people think of housecleaning as beneath them, even though they are proud of their clean homes. In other words, as with gardening, they let someone else do the work. And that's a shame, because housecleaning is, in many ways, the perfect cross-training workout. It combines cardio (especially if you're scrubbing bathrooms or floors), resistance training in your upper body, and flexibility (because you are moving around a lot and constantly changing position). In many ways, housecleaning is like dancing — it's constant motion. And cleaning your house yourself will save you money!
The following are the activities that can make a change in your body, including your heart and muscles: vacuuming, dusting, washing floors, scrubbing bathrooms, and washing windows. Because of differences in body size, activities, and energy output, no one knows exactly how many calories you'll burn, but rough estimates are anywhere from 100 to 300 calories per hour, depending on your intensity level.
Another very effective strategy is to clean your house in 10-minute, 20-minute, or 30-minute breaks in the evening, especially if the TV is usually on. Get up during commercials and wash your sinks, or turn off the TV during that half-hour show you don't really like and do the whole bathroom. Not only will you burn a nice number of calories, but the energy blast will lighten your mood and you'll be happy with the reward of a cleaner house!