Does housework count as exercise?

While it offers a chance to burn off a few more calories a day, housework shouldn't be your only form of physical exercise as the amount of activity isn't enough to keep you in shape in and of itself.
Does housework count as exercise?
Carlos Fabián Avila

Reviewed and approved by Doctor Carlos Fabián Avila.

Last update: 10 October, 2022

“Does housework count as exercise?” is a fairly common question. Yet housewives and weekend cleaners no longer have an excuse to shy away from the gym. A recent study has proven that housework, while a good opportunity to get up and moving, doesn’t replace regular physical activity.

Does housework count as exercise? No.

It may be fun to make a game of brooms and sponges, but it’s no replacement for doing sport. When asked does housework count exercise, most people will say no. That’s because sports and exercise are considered an intentional form of working out (just like strolling around the mall isn’t considered on par with a hike).

Exercise causes your body to burn energy and must involve all the muscles in the body. But isn’t wiping streaks from your window and scrubbing dirty plates a sweaty job? While you might get a bit warm, it doesn’t have quite the same impact as a gym workout does, according to a study by the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.

If you’re one of those people who can’t find time for regular exercise or sports and fill in the gaps with other activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or biking instead of driving to the grocery store, then great. But in the arena of housework, while you may burn a few extra calories, it shouldn’t replace a regular monthly or weekly intentional workout.

Sweeping a broom for 30 minutes isn’t a replacement for a half-hour at the gym. Your body requires much more intense activity to feel a benefit from a workout.

So does housework count as exercise? You won’t get skinny from housework, that’s for sure. You need to dedicate time and attention to workouts. So consider housework, while somewhat of a tough job, not enough to count as exercise.


Adding exercise to your daily routine

While housework alone won’t cut it, you can add certain elements of exercise to your day. You’ll find you can make your daily household chores a bit more interesting and better at improving your health. You can burn up to 500 calories in one good cleaning session, for example after moving house or during a spring cleaning.


You can find ways to work your legs, arms, back and abdomen to increase your strength (always with intentional workouts at the gym or by engaging in sports) by including some of the following suggestions.

Combine squats in your lifting

Do some toys on the ground that need collecting? Try doing some squatting to pick them up. Remember to keep your back straight and bend at the knees.  If you want to boost the power of the squat, hold it for at least 15 seconds. Try this in the garden as well.

Sweeping abdomen crunches

Tone your abdomens as you sweep your home by tightening your abdominal muscles and keeping your back straight as you move. Keep your movements smooth by sweeping in large arcs. Try it three times a day for five minutes.

Dance and cook

If cooking isn’t your thing, try mixing up lunch and dinner by cooking to your favorite tunes. Cooking, typically a half-hour activity, can make you stand in an uncomfortable position or bend awkwardly in front of the refrigerator as you seek out that lost bell pepper.

Why not liven up the environment with your favorite artists or album? You can incorporate full body movements into dancing (just watch the knife) as you stir, chop or mix. You can burn up to 400 calories while fixing dinner for family and guests.

Read about the benefits of dancing: Do You Know the Advantages of Cleaning?

Pick up your cleaning pace

If you are wondering does housework count as exercise, you should try picking up the pace with your household chores. From scrubbing plates to washing windows you can boost your cleaning power and burn calories by using quicker movements. If you need a little rhythm help, turn to your favorite power jams. 


Window cleaning 

Clean your windows inside and out, your shoulders will thank you. Washing windows isn’t typically an everyday chore and often requires a bit more elbow grease. Try adding both sides of the pane to your routine to build strength. If you keep it up for a half hour without dropping your arms, you can burn up to 150 calories. The same goes for mirrors in your home.


If you have an affinity for the outdoors and fresh air then maybe gardening might become your favorite activity. Just like sweeping, tighten your abdominal muscles whilst you rake your garden. If you have to bend or lift a few flower pots, try squats while keeping your back straight. Gardening is a good activity if you have been asking yourself the question: Does housework count as exercise?


Clean your floors by hand

Those abdomen tightening exercises also apply to cleaning your floor by hand. It’s amazing how a sponge, some soap and a bucketful of water can improve the look of your home and your overall health. The same goes if you decide to stand up and mop instead.

Hand wash your car

You’ll save some money and burn a few more calories. You should try keeping your car washing moves long and smooth helping to stretch your back muscles, spine, and arms. Try some squats to get to the lower parts of your vehicle.

Hand wash your clothes

Your washing machine may be doing a great job but for those clothes that may not be machine friendly, you should try hand washing. Clothing made from cotton or latex, baby clothes or underwear are good examples of opportunities to do hand washing. If you want a boost, try scrubbing those items that need an extra squeaky clean by hand.



You don’t enjoy cleaning? 5 Cleaning Tricks if You Don’t Like Cleaning

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Murphy, M. H., Donnelly, P., Breslin, G., Shibli, S., & Nevill, A. M. (2013). Does doing housework keep you healthy? The contribution of domestic physical activity to meeting current recommendations for health. BMC public health, 13, 966. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-966
  • Wen, X., Liang, Y., Zhu, J., & Wu, T. (2013). The effects of housework on the health of retired older adults: a preliminary investigation from the Tongji-Dongfeng cohort study, China. PloS one, 8(3), e57232.
  • Is housework good for health? Levels of physical activity and factors associated with activity in elderly women (2002). Results from the British Women’s Heart and Health Study. Lawlor DA, Taylor M, Bedford C, Ebrahim S.
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  • Yu R, Leung J, Woo J. Housework Reduces All-Cause and Cancer Mortality in Chinese Men. PLoS One. 2013;

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.