Your Modern Day Women Survival Guide: More housework?

written by john c ashworth

Ok, wait. Before you go bullistic on me, I confess, you don’t necessarily need to do more housework, you do need to move more though…

It turns out that one of the reasons women in particular are overweight and obese has been directly correlated with the fact that sometime around 50 years ago, life here in America started to change. Until that time, of course, women were the ones primarily doing all of the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, and everythign else that allowed Dad to sit in that chair and read the newspaper with his pipe.

As reported in the New York Times this grueling work was recently discussed as part of a new study which is a follow-up to an influential 2011 report which used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine that, during the past 50 years, most American workers began sitting down on the job. Physical activity at work, such as walking or lifting, almost vanished, with workers now spending most of their time seated before a computer or talking on the phone. Consequently, the authors found, the average American worker was burning almost 150 fewer calories daily at work than his or her employed parents had, a change that had materially contributed to the rise in obesity during the same time frame, especially among men, the authors concluded that 50 years ago, women spent about twice as much time physically active during the day than they do now. This kept them more fit, and more readily able to burn off all the extra fat they were eating in those days. (New York Time, 2013)

But that study, while fascinating, was narrow, focusing only on people with formal jobs. It overlooked a large segment of the population, namely a lot of women. (New York Times, 2013)

So in this newer study, Edward Archer, a research fellow with the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, used data from the American Heritage Time Use Study, a remarkable archive of “time-use diaries” provided by thousands of women beginning in 1965. This data looks at both working and non-working women, and extends through 2010. It was from the analysis of this data, that Dr. Archer and his colleagues were able to determine that women are moving about half as much today as they were back then.

In addition, and even more dramatic is that this new research also showed that women had also greatly reduced the number of calories that they typically burned during their hours at home. American women not employed outside of their home burned 360 fewer calories every day in 2010 than they had in 1965, with working women burning about 132 fewer calories at home each day in 2010 than in 1965. (New York Times, 2013)

Today, of course, women work and many of them will tell you that they still do all of the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, and everything else that somehow never seems to get done by Dad. So you might be wonderng why that doesn’t keep them even leaner. The problem is in all the darn sitting. That sitting is lethal. And while women may or may not still do all of the housework, they still go to work where they sit a lot. They sit right alongside all of the men, and together they sit and they sit and they sit until one day we all discover, gee, maybe all that physical housework wasn’t so bad afterall.

Which brings me to “The Modern Day Woman Action Plan!”

Take back and take on your housework in a whole new way

“We all tend to look at the mundane things in our life with such displeasure and dread. What might happen if you instead looked at something like housework as a way to increase your exercise and physical activity level each week?” -The Fitness Nomad

Here are just three examples of how you could turn housework into a weekly fitness routine that saves you time, makes you fit, and keeps you lean

  1. Even just by focusing on proper back and body positioning while performing the movements involved in cleaning, you can add signifcnatly to your flexibility and strength in the muscles and joints involved. In addition, by placing more emphasis on back and body positioning, you can prevent some of the soreness and achiness that some feel after the they have performed this work. Because I’m quite sure there are some out there who will say they don’t want to do the work because it might hurt their back, neck, etc…
  2. One example of how to build in more focused exercise during your adventures in housework:
    Before you pour out that bucket of dirty water, pick it up and move it up and down a flight of stairs five to ten times, switching it from one hand to the other. The added work of trying not to spill the water will work your core and the aerobic work of stair climbing with that added water weight will jolt your heart rate right up.
  3. Stop after each segment of the work and stretch. Say you’ve just finished the floors. Layout your mat on this now pristine surface and spend 5-10 minutes stretching your body in ways that feel most appropriate to you. Depending on how much time you have, you can stop as many times as you want. You will be amazed by how far a little stretching can go to improve your mood and leave you feeling grounded and free of muscle tension.
  4. And here’s an extra one. Again, I realize time is limited. I can hear my wife saying to me now, “John, I don’t have time for that.”  Make time once you’re work is finished for either a nice nap or a nice walk, and then go on with the rest of your day. Energized. Enlightened, and satisfied with another job well done.

-John



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