“[One] of the reasons I think society is a bit unfit is because we aren’t doing simple actions like bending over the washing tub or stretching down and scrubbing a floor,” says Blake Griffiths.
Housework may seem like a chore for many, but for Blake it’s another opportunity for exercise.
While you won’t build much fitness doing the odd bit of dusting or ironing, you might be surprised what you can get out of some other household jobs.
Spend half an hour each on some vacuuming, window washing and lawn mowing, and you could burn as much energy as a vigorous circuit training class at the gym.
You can improve your strength (shovel that compost), flexibility (clean the top of the bookshelf) and cardiovascular fitness (vacuum that hallway) — especially if you put a bit of intensity into it to turn it into a real work out.
And just because machinery can help us do household jobs more efficiently, it doesn’t mean you always have to use it.
“I often will just quickly sweep up the floor with a hand broom, as opposed to getting out the vacuum cleaner,” Blake says.
Blake, a textile designer from Broken Hill in far western New South Wales, relies on a clean and tidy house not only to live in, but to produce his artwork as well.
“By keeping on top of housework, it gives me the mental space to be able to be creative,” he says.
“It’s like my clean spaces are mirrored internally in a kind of a mental space … I’m very Japanese in that way. I like things in order.”
Blake uses housework to gather energy and inspiration and to exercise mindfulness.
“When you’re doing what could be seen as a mundane task like folding, ironing, mopping … [it’s] an opportunity to basically meditate and to use that as a time of reflection for something completely unrelated,” he says.
“Otherwise I’m at work, I’m talking to people, I’m doing things for other people.”
For those who don’t know where to start when it comes to cleaning their house, Blake has some useful tips.
“Eucalyptus oil for everything. It’s got such great properties for cleaning off nasty bacteria and it smells amazing,” he says.
“In the bathroom I use that and a bit of bicarb [soda]. If anything’s stubborn I just give it a good scrub.”
And once the scrubbing, wiping, kneeling and sweeping is complete, a beautiful living environment is available to you to live in and to share.
“When you enter a space that is kept in that way, you all of a sudden completely shift the mindset of how you want to exist in that space,” Blake says.
“You want to sit down, you want to have a cup of tea, you want to have a conversation, as opposed to wanting to retreat to your little part of the house within that.”
Is housework for you?
Your partner and/or housemates will undoubtedly say “yes”.
House and garden work is available at any time and there’s always something to do.
Benefits of housework:
You can kill two birds with one stone: cardiovascular exercise and making your home look nice and clean.
Housework and gardening can help improve your fitness in three ways: cardio, strength and flexibility.
“For me, it’s really the headspace,” Blake adds.
“Housework is about keeping things organised … it creates order in your life … it gives me structure.”
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Equipment needed for housework:
This type of exercise won’t hurt your hip pocket.
You could try following Blake’s suggestion to use eucalyptus oil and a bit of bicarb soda for a cheaper, environmentally-friendly option.
Other than that, all you need is a little elbow grease and perhaps a pair of rubber gloves.
Common housework injuries:
- Slips, trips and falls are a risk. Wear shoes rather than thongs, especially for outside work and anything on a ladder (and make sure it is on a steady surface).
- Keep cords away from common areas where people can trip.
- If you have a tough day in the house or garden with lots of lifting, you may be a bit stiff the next day. Walk to get the circulation going, stretch gently or you can use a foam roller.
- If outside, wear sun screen and a hat and keep a water bottle nearby.
We thank Dr Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, of the School of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Southern Queensland, and Nardine Presland of Exercise and Sports Science Australia, for their expert input.
This story, which was originally written by Maryke Steffens and published by ABC Health and Wellbeing, was updated in 2019.