If you’ve ever spent a long afternoon hard at work cleaning your home or apartment, you might have thought to yourself “This is a workout!” In fact, it’s safe to say that any kind of physical activity is a workout of some kind.

But is cleaning the house really considered “exercise”? And what kinds of cleaning are better at burning calories? CottageCare takes a look at these questions so you can figure out how to stay fit while keeping things tidy.

Is house cleaning exercise?

Yes, cleaning the house is exercise! From sweeping to scrubbing dishes to dusting, all that moving around is definitely burning calories. Of course, not all forms of cleaning and exercise are created equal. You’ll be sweating bullets after scouring the crayon marks off the walls while pushing a vacuum cleaner around the carpet might not be nearly as exhausting.

The top 6 house cleaning activities as exercise (in no particular order)

Floor Cleaning: Vacuuming, Sweeping, and Mopping

Exercise Intensity: Light to Moderate

Cleaning the floors naturally requires you to move around a lot: you’ve got to cover the entire square footage of your home! Therefore no matter what kind of floor cleaning you’re doing, you’re at least walking, which burns 4-6 calories per minute.

And the specific floor-cleaning activity you’re doing makes a difference! 

  • Sweeping is the least calorie-intensive floor cleaning since brooms are light and the sweeping motion is limited. 
  • Using a vacuum cleaner is slightly more work, and you can turn it into a real workout by stepping forward into a kneel with each extension of the vacuum! 
  • Mopping, particularly if you have tough dirt on your floors, is the hardest exercise of these three. You end up using your arm and upper body muscles extensively to get those floors shining!

Scrubbing Walls, Cabinets, and Floors

Exercise Intensity: Moderate

If you’ve ever had to scour a tough stain or caked-on gunk from a wall, then you’ll know why this cleaning-as-exercise is rated Moderate intensity. Even with a good brush/sponge and powerful cleaning solutions, you’ll often have to use all of your arm strength in a back-and-forth motion to get those vertical surfaces clean. At the end of the day, your cabinets and walls will be spotless and your muscles will be sore! 

Cleaning Windows and Mirrors

Exercise Intensity: Light

The motion used to clean windows is very similar to scrubbing walls, but you can’t apply nearly as much muscle strength as you would to a wall. The gentle circular motion needed to clear up most spots won’t leave you out of breath, but it’s still a light exercise. Spray those windows and mirrors with a glass cleaning solution, grab your paper towel (or old newspaper), and get to lightly scrubbing!

Rearranging a Room

Exercise Intensity: Heavy (literally!)

This is the most intense house-”cleaning” exercise on our list, and it comes with a major caveat: if you’re planning on moving around heavy furniture, make sure you’re physically prepared with stretches or a helper! If you’ve ever moved houses/apartments without the help of movers, then you know why even just rearranging furniture is a heavy workout.

You can put your furniture on plastic sliders so it’s easier to push it around the room, but if you’re looking to really get your sweat on you can lift it off the floor to move it around. Just be ready to take a break when you need one.

Doing Dishes

Exercise Intensity: Light

If you don’t have a dishwasher, doing the dishes is likely a daily or nearly-daily activity. But that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time! While this form of cleaning exercise is admittedly very light, you’re still moving your arms and burning a few calories. If you want to step it up a notch, throw on some music and add some dancing to your dishwashing routine.

Yardwork and Gardening

Cleaning fall leaves from the gutters on a wood ladder

Exercise Intensity: Moderate to Heavy

Not only is this housework exercise a good workout, but it also has the added benefit of taking you outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine! Yardwork and gardening encompass all kinds of tasks, and they’re all at least at the moderate intensity level. Here are some of the best workouts you can get in the garden:

Weeding: Getting down in the dirt and pulling weeds with your hands or a weeding tool requires a significant amount of arm muscle usage.

Planting New Plants: Whether or not you have to till the soil, preparing a plot for new plants involves moving a lot of soil around and maybe even dealing with rocks and tough roots.

Raking Leaves: This is like sweeping the floors but kicked up a notch. You’ll feel this workout in your back muscles as you drag that rake across the grass and pile the leaves up high.

Install Landscaping: Like moving furniture, this is a job that shouldn’t be taken on lightly. If you think you’ve got it in you to lug around bricks to set up a beautiful new backyard feature, then you’ll have a solid workout on your hands.

Watering Plants: While this is mostly just a walking exercise, if you water your plants with a large watering can, you have to carry it around! A one-gallon watering can weighs around ten pounds, meaning you’ll burn 6-7 calories a minute carrying it around the yard when it’s full.

If you’re looking to stay in shape, cleaning might not be enough

Now that we’ve gone through some of the best ways to get a workout while doing housework, you might be wondering “Does this mean I can skip the gym?” Of course, your personal fitness and health journey are yours to make, and we’re not here to offer professional fitness coaching! That being said, most of these house cleaning tasks aren’t sufficient exercise on their own if you don’t do any other physical activities. 

And if this all sounds like too much work and you want to save your time on housework to do something else (for example, going to the gym for a better form of exercise!) give CottageCare a call! Let our team of professional cleaners take on the hard work of cleaning your home. With teams in over 40 locations across North America, we’ve got you covered.


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