Chores for health

Doing more chores in a day can help you stay healthy and fit

Woman doing gardening

Our lives today are more restful and easy as far as physical comforts are concerned. We are also spending more time and money on medical bills as compared to our ancestors. Most of us drive to work, sit in offices and hire help at home for household chores. After years of spending the entire day sitting or lying down, we suddenly realise one day that something is wrong. Weight starts creeping in, daily activities start becoming a challenge, and at times, disease sets in.

In a desperate attempt to regain health, we start exploring various options. Strong marketing strategies and innovations in science bring to us a new concept in health management promising to be ‘the answer’ to our health issues. While for some, these innovations are exciting and challenging, for others, they only add to the confusion.

Is there a possibility for person to remain fit and healthy minus the fancy gadgets and complex routines? The answer is YES. For that we need to first understand how our metabolism works.

Our body uses calories in three ways

About 70 per cent of all calories in a day are used for essential functions and chemical reactions. The function is called resting metabolism. Factors such as genetics, sex, age and body composition affect a person’s metabolic rate. While genetics, sex and age cannot be influenced, body composition is a variable factor.

Of all the calories we consume in a day, about 20 per cent – 25 per cent are utilised for day-to-day activities such as housework. This is a highly variable factor and hence can influence both the total caloric expenditure as well as the resting metabolism.

Another 10 per cent of calories a day are used up in digestion and absorption of nutrients we consume through food. This too is a variable factor.

This shows that what you do during the day in the form of routine activities can influence your health. There are other positive benefits of increasing your daily activity levels too.

Weight control

To lose one kilogram, a person needs to theoretically burn 3850 calories per week or 550 calories per day through physical activity. [See chart to know the approximate number of calories you burn during different activities] While the total number of calories burned in a bout of exercise may be more, the modest amount utilised for daily chores should not be overlooked. Simple daily choices, like taking the stairs instead of a lift, can help add to the calories you burn.

Stress relief

Physical activity of any form helps fade the memory of stressful situations and creates positive emotions. Physically challenging activities release endorphins, the feel good hormones, in the blood stream. Engaging in household chores helps pass time and remain mentally alert—a boon for individuals who find it difficult to pass the time. Add to that, the feeling of being worthy—it boosts confidence.

Disease prevention

Being active in daily life also helps avert lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension  and arteriosclerosis. Physical activity helps the body utilise glucose effectively and improves the way insulin works. It also helps lower our cholesterol levels and control weight, which results in reducing the risk of diseases.

Reduced bone loss

Our bones develop their maximum strength [peak bone mass] by the age of 35. Women experience rapid bone less in the initial years of peri-menopause, which continues even in the post-menopausal years, albeit slowly. This loss is what leads to osteoporosis. Men experience bone loss much later in life and to a lesser extent. However, smoking, drinking alcohol and medications can speed up the process. Weight bearing physical activities help slow down the process in both men and women.

Better elimination of wastes

The liver, lungs, kidneys, alimentary canal and the lymphatic and blood and perspiration systems are all concerned with eliminating waste from our body. If we are inactive for extended periods, these systems slow down which leads to build up of toxins. Regular physical activity improves blood circulation and keeps the elimination systems functioning at their optimum.

So even if you can’t hit the gym or pump iron, increasing your daily physical activity will keep you fit.

Buying groceries 90 per hour
Doing light chores 95 per hour
Standing in a line 100 per hour
Playing with a pet 115 per hour
Playing with kids [not rigorous] 120 per hour
Driving 120 per hour
Walking 130 per hour
Shopping 135 per hour
Chores such as vacuuming or scrubbing 225 per hour
Gardening 230 per hour


This was first published in the August 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Venu Hirani
Venu Hirani is a Mumbai-based nutritionist and fitness consultant who specialises in weight management, antenatal and postnatal fitness. She is also the proprietor of Bodyworks: Weight Management Specialist


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