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Turn Everyday Chores into Calorie-Burners

Portrait Of Young Woman Doing Household ChoresAre you ever surprised when a boring everyday activity leaves you gasping for air? Or when you get sore from tackling a home-improvement project like painting your bedroom? So was Renee Bedford, who found that standard gym training wasn’t preparation for farm work. Here Renee shares how everyday chores can get you burning—and who of us doesn’t appreciate a little multitasking? —Erin

Fitness Training for Life

Recently I visited a girlfriend on her farm. Fresh air carried the scent of hay, the horses nuzzled my hand, and green hills rolled for miles around me. Inspired, I decided to play Lady of the Farm and help my friend in her daily chores. She looked me up and down, slightly smirked, then handed me a shovel and told me to start mucking. What was that look for? She knows I go to the gym five times per week.

After 20 minutes of mucking, my shoulders were burning and I had four more stalls to go. I was also confused; I went to the gym every day to keep my body in shape, but clearly the treadmill and weight machines weren’t doing the trick. As I finished mucking out the third stall, I realized that although I exercise regularly, I exercise on automation. The weight machines follow a path with no room for variation, so my muscles are only worked in one way—the Way of the Machine. Treadmills may mimic hills, but their quiet whir does not compare to the chirping of birds and the fresh air in my lungs.

Automation is supposed to help us, and in many cases it is hugely beneficial. But true physical fitness requires mental fitness as well, and the mind must be as engaged as the body. From running on a treadmill and only exercising with ear-buds to fancy weight machines, it seems we have almost automated getting fit! I love hitting two birds with one stone, and after my stint on the farm, I realized that I hugely enjoy working out at home. Some research on my part showed that household chores burn about a gazillion calories, and that I can use everyday items, from soup cans to bricks, to build muscle tone. If you want to have the same great results without spending an extra dime, here are some practical, non-machine workout routines you can try at home.

Feel the Burn from Daily Chores

Fire up the iron. Ironing gives the entire upper body a great workout, engaging the shoulder muscles, biceps, triceps and upper back while you flex and retain good posture with each movement. To make it more fun, do it in front of the TV or with the radio playing. The constant back and forth motion of the iron can turn into a mild aerobic activity after 30 to 60 minutes of continuous movements and can burn about 156 calories per hour.

Scrub-a-dub. Washing dishes gives your body a mild upper-body aerobic workout. You’ll burn 156 calories per hour, just for standing and washing the dishes. Tidying up, which requires constant back and forth movements and sometimes heavy lifting, burns more than 170 calories per hour. Step it up and you can get it to 240 calories burned per hour.

Dust it off. Dusting involves more muscles of the upper body as you wipe various objects in the house. The coordinated arm and shoulder movements also engage the abdominal and lower-back muscles. Half an hour of dusting burns up to 164 calories per hour. Do some heavy scrubbing and cleaning, and you burn 204 calories an hour. You’ll have buff arms and buffed furniture!

Strength Training at Home

Spending money on fancy dumbbells or expensive gym equipment is unnecessary if you are looking to build muscle tone. It’s possible to pack on muscle and sweat off that spare tire just by using stuff around the house. In fact, anything heavy that can be gripped in the hand or fits in a bag can be used for weightlifting. Fill some bottles with water; put some bricks in a bag and lift—the possibilities are endless, and it’s easy to find different weights that best suit you.

If you’re just starting out, try soup cans or juice bottles to add weight to arm and shoulder exercises. Use them like dumbbells. Work your way up to the family-size soup cans or gallon jugs of water. Bottles of liquid laundry detergent are excellent as dumbbells because the handles are usually larger and the plastic is sturdier. If you’ve got some empty bottles, fill them with sand, rocks or dirt for more weight. Use them for lateral raises and bicep curls of all kinds, tricep extensions, and sit-ups and crunches.

Cardio Without the Treadmill

Get outside. A $1,000 treadmill can help with your cardio goals, but you don’t really need it to get a good workout at home. Any exercise that you can do fast enough to get your heart rate up can serve as a cardio workout. Running and walking, for instance, are great exercises that don’t require much equipment if you do them outside—just a good pair of running shoes and a supportive sports bra. These can be incorporated into any routine and done by people at any level of fitness, almost anywhere.

Take advantage of stairs. If you live in an apartment, running up and down flights of stairs is a fantastic cardio workout! It is also one of the easiest ways to tone a butt that might not be as firm and tight as you want it to be. Just be careful not to overwork your knees.

Skip it out. Another great exercise for burning calories is rope skipping. It is estimated that 10 minutes of jumping rope (at 120 turns per minute) has the same benefit as jogging for 30 minutes. Those are great numbers for people short on time.

If you’d love to get fit but haven’t saved up for the gym or the latest fitness equipment, don’t despair. You can still get fit without spending money. Best of all, you can carry out these workout plans while you are at home performing your day-to-day responsibilities. Combined with good eating habits, these simple, non-machine exercises will bring get you closer to yourgoal of obtaining a sleeker and stronger profile in no time!

Renee Bedford is a mom and wife who believes in the importance of staying fit in order to keep up with her family and busy life. Besides being a committed mother, she also works for the Christmas Tree Market, where they sell an array of classic and unique artificial Christmas trees.

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