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Q: Do household chores like vacuuming, dusting, laundry and gardening count as fitness activities?

A: They sure do — especially if you make a conscious choice to do it with energy and intensity, according to Debbie Mandel, MA, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul.

“Household chores and gardening provide people with a great opportunity to work out while ticking off necessary tasks.”

Think about how many chores inherently include foundational fitness activities such as squatting, pressing, lunging, deadlifting and carrying. If you execute these sorts of strength-building movements properly, with full intention and awareness, you can get a pretty respectable workout.

For instance, brace your abdominal muscles during any type of exertion and you’ll strengthen your core — and protect your back. Squat a bit more deeply than you have to while weeding and lifting bags of soil. Rake and dig vigorously to create a high-intensity cardio activity. (And never mind the looks you get from neighbors, says Mandel, who notes that gardeners tend not to get osteoporosis.) You can pick up the pace inside, too: Waiting for the spin cycle to finish? Do calf raises and leg lifts, or turn on the music and dance.

And remember that each task also provides an opportunity for moving meditation and mind-body fitness.

This article originally appears as “Housework as Exercise?” in the December 2012 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Jen Sinkler

Jen Sinkler, PCC, RKC-II, is a fitness writer and personal trainer based in Minneapolis. Her website is

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