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The Spring Cleaning Workout

Posted 3/28/2017 by UHBlog

Before your spring cleaning gets too physical, make sure your body is running in tip-top condition. See us for a health tune-up.

The Spring Cleaning Workout

Does housework count as exercise? You bet, says occupational therapist Cynthia Linderman, OTR/L.

“Any movement is exercise,” she says. “You can control the tasks you have to do and turn them into exercise.”

Even putting away your groceries counts as exercise, especially when you consider that a can of soup weighs approximately one pound or a gallon of milk weighs eight pounds. If you carry the grocery bags in from the car, lift them to the counter to unload them and then put cans and boxes away in the cupboard, you're stretching and doing resistance training, similar to using light hand weights, which helps with your overall stamina and flexibility.

By doing your everyday household chores or gardening jobs at a moderate intensity, you'll breathe harder and your heart rate will quicken. Plus, you're more likely to meet the American Heart Association's recommended exercise guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. Additionally, this kind of physical activity will impact your health positively by helping you:

  • Maintain your weight
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer
  • Reduce arthritis pain and associated disability
  • Lessen your risk for osteoporosis and falls
  • Ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety

Spring is a perfect time to get more fit and active while completing your household chores and gardening activities. If you want to know the calories burned, there are a number of websites that can help you figure out how many calories you’ve burned based on your weight and duration of the activity.

According to Linderman, these typical spring cleaning tasks can help give you a workout:

  • Gardening and yard work. Many of the activities you do to spruce up your yard will also help keep you healthy and burn calories, such as:
    • Raking leaves
    • Cleaning flowerbeds
    • Pulling weeds
    • Pruning bushes and trees
    • Lifting bags of dirt or mulch
  • Washing walls, mirrors and windows. You'll use your arms a lot for these tasks, especially doing circular motions.
    “Be sure to switch off arms,” Linderman says. “That way you'll get an even workout on each side.”
  • Painting and/or cleaning gutters. “Going up and down a step stool is like taking a step class,” she says.
  • Vacuuming. This chore involves lunges and pushing and pulling the weight of the vacuum.
  • Emptying the dishwasher. Doing this common chore requires squatting, twisting and bending as you unload the machine.

“Turning on music you enjoy can help you move faster and get your heart rate going,” Linderman says. “You can be doing your chores while making your muscles stronger and building endurance.”

If your daily tasks feel like too much, take it slowly.

“I tell my patients to break tasks up by doing the vacuuming one day, the dusting another day and picking things up on yet another day,” she says. “Other patients, I suggest they sit to do a task instead of stand, if it can be done that way. Sometimes you have to make accommodations to reach your goals.”

Cynthia Linderman, OTR/L is a occupational therapist at University Hospitals Bedford Medical Center Rehabilitation Services. You can request an appointment with Linderman or any other health care provider online.

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