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Exercise: Housework and NEAT Ways to Burn Calories

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

Is it considered exercise if I do household chores?


Too busy to exercise

Dear Too busy to exercise,

Housework does burn calories and can be considered a form of exercise, but it depends on the type and length of time spent on the chore. Moderate to vigorous exercise can be accomplished several times during the week with gardening, raking, vacuuming, mopping floors, mowing the lawn, washing the car by hand, going up and down stairs to do the laundry, or walking the dog.

In addition, according to Endocrinologist, James A. Levine, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic:

"You can expend calories in one of two ways. One is to go to the gym and the other is through all the activities of daily living called NEAT [Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis]. It appears that NEAT is far more important for calorie-burning than exercise in nearly everyone." (Levine, 2009)

In other words, a fidget factor helps folks maintain or lose weight. The higher the NEAT, the less weight gain.

A person can increase their NEAT in many ways. For example, if watching television get up and walk around the house during commercials, stand instead of sit, pace when talking on a cordless phone, when drying blow drying your hair do ballet plies or toe raises, if sitting in a swivel chair at the computer, then swivel in it. Basically, just move around.

Regular exercise is very important and can help people feel better and live longer. The Mayo Clinic ( lists seven ways exercise can improve your life:

1. Improves your mood: stimulates brain chemicals, helps reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

2. Combats chronic diseases: helps prevent or manage high blood pressure, boosts the good cholesterol while decreasing the bad cholesterol, helps prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.

3. Helps manage your weight: exercising burns calories and helps keep weight under control.

4. Strengthens your heart and lungs: regular exercise helps your entire cardiovascular system work more efficiently.

5. Put the spark back in your sex life: exercise improves circulation, and men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise.

6. Fun: exercise doesn't have to be drudgery. Go on a family hike, have a neighborhood kickball game, go to the park and push your kids on the swings. Just have fun and keep moving.

For more information about NEAT, go to

For more information about the benefits of exercise, go to