If you find that squeezing in a workout when pressed for time is a feat, you’ll be happy to know that household chores such as vacuuming, gardening, and dusting burn a fair amount of calories.
Plus, doing housework at a moderate intensity counts toward the 150 minutes of weekly exercise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends (
Performing household chores can also help you gain strength, boost mobility, and increase metabolism, which can help you to maintain a healthy weight. Besides yielding a cleaner living space, engaging in these tasks can help to maintain your mobility, which makes all of your other everyday movements easier.
We’ve calculated the number of calories a person weighing 175 pounds (79 kg) burns when performing the following activities at a moderate intensity. If you weigh more, you’ll burn more calories, and if you weigh less, you’ll burn fewer calories.
Read on to learn how many calories you burn during home maintenance tasks such as vacuuming, tidying, washing windows, and mowing the lawn.
Vacuuming for a half hour burns around 80 calories for a 175-pound person, and is a viable form of exercise that works your upper body, core, and legs (2).
A small 2019 study found that vacuuming is a physically demanding task that also works the arm muscles. Lifting the vacuum cleaner was more intensive than using push and pull movements to vacuum, which is something to remember if you dread carrying the device to different levels of your house (
Try vacuuming on your tiptoes or in a squat position to strengthen your leg muscles.
Tips to turn housework into a workout:
- Engage your core muscles and maintain good posture while performing all tasks.
- Use proper body mechanics when lifting and carrying items and during pushing and pulling movements.
- Avoid overreaching or twisting your body without proper core engagement.
- Use your non-dominant arm and hand to do tasks, which allows the other side to rest and gives you a more balanced workout.
- Instead of hunching over at a low counter or bending down to reach low items, assume a squat position.
- You can add in pulses, toe raises, and heel raises, or do walking lunges, high knees, and high kicks as you move around.
- Use wearable weights, such as a weighted vest and wrist or ankle weights to improve balance and gain strength.
Tidying up burns around 238 calories an hour, while moving and carrying boxes burns around 588 calories an hour (4, 5). Add in some gentle stretches to counteract any repetitive movements that you make. If you’re carrying bags or handheld items, add in a few bicep curls.
Keeping up with housework may positively affect brain health, which is linked to physical health. Results from a small 2021 study involving older adults found that doing housework physical activity is positively associated with brain volume — particularly gray matter volume — in the hippocampal and frontal lobe (
If you dust for an hour, you’ll burn around 159 calories and have a cleaner house, which positively impacts your health. But if you’re doing heavier scrubbing, like washing windows, you’ll burn between 318–378 calories per hour 2, 4).
It’s a good idea to do a few gentle backbends for every 15 minutes of dusting or scrubbing since these tasks involve a lot of time spent bending forward.
Turn up the volume
Crank up the tunes to boost your mood, energy, and motivation. Listening to music while going about your household duties offers several benefits. According to one 2020 meta-analysis, music positively influences physical performance, perceived exertion, and oxygen efficiency (7).
Creating a daily routine that includes making your bed may positively impact your mental health and set you up for a productive day. You can burn around 80 calories making beds for 30 minutes (2). However, since it will probably only take you around 5 minutes, the task only burns about 13 calories.
Mopping burns around 318 calories an hour and works your shoulders, triceps, and biceps, as well as your core, if you’re mindful of it. Sweeping is a little less intense, and will burn about 159 calories per hour (2).
Engage your arm muscles as you go, and try to switch sides once in awhile for a more balanced core and shoulder workout.
For a 175-pound person, mowing the lawn with a push mower burns around 318 calories an hour (2). Focus on keeping your body in line with the mower. If you notice you’re using one side of your body more than the other, make the appropriate corrections.
Doing light to moderate yard work such as raking and bagging leaves will burn around 317 calories an hour. You can expect to burn around 436–477 calories an hour doing strenuous yard work such as digging, shoveling snow, and pushing a snowblower (2, 5).
Gardening activities such as pruning, weeding, and planting are moderate intensity exercises that burn around 398 calories an hour (2). Remember to balance in a comfortable squat position instead of bending over, which can cause low back strain. Use a cushion under your knees if you garden in a kneeling position.
Research shows that gardening has a positive impact on mental and physical health (
For a 175-pound person, doing laundry and folding clothes for one hour will burn around 159 calories. If you have a front-load washer and or dryer, try squatting to move your clothes in and out, rather than bending from your back. When lifting heavy baskets, be sure to push through your legs and keep your shoulders stable.
The next time you want to burn calories without doing a typical workout, do some housework. Maintaining a clean, orderly home and garden can help to enhance your fitness level and overall wellbeing.
Engage the appropriate muscles and maintain good form as you go about your chores to prevent injury and get the most out of your session. Be creative and find different ways to add exercises or movements to your regular chores. Your house, body, and mind will thank you, and you may feel inspired to continue regularly.