Exercise is alive and well at my house. It took me 5 hours and 15 minutes to dust, vacuum and scrub 6 rooms, 3 flights of stairs and 2 1/2 bathrooms. Do I win a medal for shiniest surfaces? Based on the hours it takes and how sore I am afterward, I know that cleaning house takes more out of this middle-aged woman than a 4-mile run. But house cleaning is the Rodney Dangerfield of exercise, even though at the end you have a finished product to show for your efforts, you get no respect.
Let’s look at why cleaning house ranks low as exercise.
It ain’t glamorous. I put on my oldest, rattiest looking clothes to clean since I know I’m just going to get dirty. Then I pick a room to begin. I start in a top corner of the ceiling and run my wall brush along the crown molding then down the walls, making sure I scoop up all the dust bunnies who are trying to avoid me. I bend down and run the duster along the woodwork, then straighten up and dust all the table sides and surfaces. Next? Vacuum the floor, scrub the floor. Repeat. It isn’t much fun (unless I have music blasting … and even then …), but the job has to be done and I’m the only one here to do it.
When I’m finished? I’m exhausted. And cranky. And I know I get to do it all over again next week.
Now let’s look at how running 4 miles ranks as exercise.
I get dressed in my cute moisture wicking shorts, shirt and sports bra. With filled water bottle in hand and chap stick on my lips, I traipse up two flights of steps to my treadmill (you thought I ran outside? In the weather?). I turn on my favorite HGTV show and adjust the volume. After a series of stretches, my muscles are warmed up and I hop onto the treadmill. I feel great. While I’m watching TV, my Nike app is tracking my every move, inching me ever-closer to my 50-mile-per-month goal.
When I’m finished? I feel virtuous. I ran!
The Final Analysis
My internal reward for cleaning the house isn’t great: feeling tired and sore and knowing I have to repeat weekly for the rest of my days. And when I mention my 5-hours-plus house cleaning to family and friends? They change the subject. No one cares. And even worse? No one thinks of it as exercise. I will never win a medal.
My internal reward for running is great: I feel virtuous. I am protecting my health! And when I mention that I ran 4 miles to family and friends? They give me a high 5. They praise my efforts. And if I ran in a race? I just might get a medal for my efforts!
So what do I plan to do? Hire a cleaning service and go for a run. Would you like to join me?