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WEIGHT FOR ME: If workouts are a chore, turn chores into a workout

Julie Barichello
Julie Barichello

I'm going to venture a guess and say I'm not the only person who feels like workouts are a chore.

While there are physical activities I enjoy — such as an afternoon playing H-O-R-S-E with my nieces at my parents' backyard basketball hoop, or a week of hiking during the annual autumn vacation with my husband — most days, my workout feels like a burden.

More often than not, the idea of exercise looms over my day, and my general attitude is, "Let's just get this over with."

In other words, the same attitude I have when I see Mount Laundry growing on the bedroom floor or the Leaning Tower of Dishes on the kitchen counter.

An idea flickered in my brain last week after an afternoon spent climbing step stools and ladders to do a full-house dusting, then vacuuming nine rooms. By the time I was finished, I was as sweaty and tired as I would be after 20 minutes on the stationary bike.

"My chores are starting to feel like a workout," I grumbled.

At which point I thought: What if I can make workouts and house cleaning a two-for-one deal a few days a week?

Using two weight management apps — My Net Diary and My Fitness Pal — I plugged in numbers to calculate how many calories the following chores burn. Calories are based on a 200-pound person:

• 30 minutes of dusting or polishing furniture burns about 65 calories.

• 15 minutes of vigorously scrubbing the bathtub can burn 90 calories.

• 30 minutes of vacuuming burns about 115 calories.

• 30 minutes of mopping burns about 75 calories.

• 30 minutes of folding and putting away laundry burns about 50 calories.

• 30 minutes of washing dishes burns about 55 calories.

• 15 minutes of washing windows burns about 85 calories.

• 20 minutes of pulling weeds can burn 115 calories.

• 30 minutes of mowing the lawn with a push mower burns about 200 calories.

• 15 minutes of manually trimming shrubs or bushes burns about 75 calories.

• 30 minutes of raking leaves burns about 150 calories.

• 30 minutes of shoveling snow burns about 220 calories.

A helpful trick when doing low-intensity chores such as folding laundry or washing dishes is to do them standing up. Don't pull over a stool, because the American Council on Exercise reports a person will burn more calories while standing than while sitting.

The general rule for losing one to two pounds per week is to burn at least 500 calories more than you consume each day.

Keep in mind: This doesn't mean you have to tally up 2,500 calories worth of chores in a day. The body burns in the ballpark of 1,400 to 1,600 calories a day on its own, even without much activity.

I allot myself 1,700 calories a day to eat. If I burn 600 calories in daily activities, that keeps me on track with weight loss. An afternoon tackling the first six chores on the list above burn 450 calories and take less than three hours — that covers the majority of a day's calorie-burning goal.

When the combination of housework plus workout gets too boring, I can always follow the lead of Disney's seven dwarfs. Instead of whistling while I work, I can sing. An hour of singing can burn about 150 calories.

Toss in a few dance moves during mopping and vacuuming, and after a few hours I have a decent workout and a cleaner house.

JULIE BARICHELLO is an assistant editor at The Times documenting her weight management and health improvement journey. To share your own weight management story, contact her at 815-431-4072 or

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