Can Housework Make a Good Workout? (Experiment Fail, Man Defeated)


Two of the most dreadful things that
you have to do, or at least should really be doing on a regular basis, are
household chores and exercising. But what if you could halve the time spent doing
them, by doing them at the same time? That was the question, when HL
challenged me to come up with a workout that would get our apartment
spanking clean at the same time. On our house cleaning days, my assigned task is
mopping the floor. Mopping the floor is one of the more physical household
chores, and it’s good exercise, but it’s unlikely to help build a ton of strength
or improve cardio performance significantly. So I decided to set myself
a couple of goals for this experiment. Firstly, I want this session of floor
mopping to be intense enough to stimulate specific training effects such
as gaining strength or improving cardio performance. I chose to make this a
cardio workout because that’s something that I haven’t been doing enough of.
Secondly, this challenge should ideally not make me spend more time mopping the
floor than I would normally. So simply busting out jumping jacks in between
bouts of mopping would not be an acceptable idea. Lastly, for logistical
reasons, the challenge would be conducted on the largest open floor
space of our apartment, our living room. But strictly speaking, what we plan to do
should still be applicable to the rest of the apartment. After the rules have
been set, the first idea that popped into my mind was naturally HIIT, or
high-intensity interval training. More specifically, I was thinking of the
Tabata protocol. Tabatas are arguably the most popular form of HIIT. It was
originally done on stationary bikes, performing 20 seconds of intense
exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, and repeated for 8 rounds, lasting a
total of 4 minutes. 4 minutes may sound like a short time, but when
done right, it would be an extremely painful 4 minutes. Before our
house cleaning day, we went for a practice run to come up with a few ideas on how
to design this workout. First I will need a suitable pattern of
movement. But the traditional way of mopping the floor just didn’t cut it. The
movement simply wasn’t demanding enough to be suitable for the Tabata protocol. I
will have to mop at a comical pace, and even that would be barely intense enough.
So I did the next logical thing. Remove the mop from the equation, and experiment
with different ways of cleaning the floor using only the cloth. It was tricky.
Some ideas were too difficult to execute because of how slippery the floors get,
and some just looked plain stupid. In the end we felt that this movement,
which we don’t have a name for it, was our best option. With that, on our actual
house cleaning day, after mopping the rest of our apartment, it was time to conduct
the experiment proper. 4 minutes, we begin. At the end of only the second round, I
started to get a very bad feeling. I was still breathing totally fine, but my thighs
was starting to feel a burn, much earlier than I had anticipated. In retrospect, I
still have no idea if this was a good idea, but as my legs were burning more
and more, I started shifting more of my weight onto my hands. And because of that,
my shoulders started to burn too, and very soon, there was no safe spot left. As the
4 minutes slowly went by, I could see the wife squirming behind the camera. She
explained that my expression showed that I was in a lot of pain and discomfort, plus
the way I collapsed onto my knees multiple times was making her feel sick
too. After what felt like an eternity, I was
delighted to hear the final ring of the timer, signalling the end of the Tabata. The experiment definitely didn’t go the
way that I had expected. What I had planned to be a more cardio heavy
session, ended up exposing my poor muscular endurance instead. But in conclusion, if
you’re really that pressed for time and want to give this a shot, I think that
the experiment, at the very least, shows that the idea is definitely feasible.
With a bit of creativity and much better planning than what I’ve done, I feel that
there’s no doubt one would be able to combine housework and a workout together
into a single session, to great effect. So what do you think? Is this silly idea something that you would try?

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