London - It may seem like a time economical way to keep fit. But housework isn’t good exercise, researchers have warned.
Those who count gardening, DIY, vacuuming and cleaning as physical activity are fatter than others who clock up as many minutes of exercise in other ways, a study found.
Researchers said that women in particular should be aware that they may be fooling themselves by counting housework as exercise.
The warning comes as everyday activities are increasingly promoted as being good for health.
The British government’s Change4Life campaign tells people they don’t have to go to the gym to be active. It suggests they do gardening, clean the car by hand, “use plenty of elbow grease” to wash the windows and use the smallest attachment while vacuuming to “work up a sweat”.
The University of Ulster researchers asked more than 4 500 men and women about how much walking, cycling, sport, housework and other forms of exercise they had done in the previous week.
Just 42 percent met the government guideline of 150 minutes a week of exercise strenuous enough to raise heart rate and temperature while still allowing them to carry on a conversation.
Women were particularly likely to count housework as exercise and when it was taken out of the calculations, just 20 percent of them reached the activity threshold.
Strikingly though, the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, found that people who counted housework as exercise were fatter than those who exercised in other ways. And the more housework they did, the bigger they were.
The researchers said this may be because the small muscles used in housework tire easily and so give people a false impression of how much exercise they have done.
It is also possible overweight people find housework more difficult because of their size and so over-estimate the calories they have burnt off.
A further risk was that people reward themselves with fatty and sugary treats after finishing the chores.
Professor Marie Murphy said: “Housework is physical activity and any physical activity should theoretically increase the amount of calories expended.
“But we found that housework was inversely related to leanness which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate intensity physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity undertaken.”
Chris Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Your exercise should make you breathe harder, feel warmer, and make your heart beat faster.
“So unless your household chores tick all these boxes, they won’t count.” - Daily Mail