Housework and keeping fit

The Guardian


What people are facing these days is a big rise in obesity. One in four men and one in five women are obese. Each year, 9,000 people die prematurely in Britain alone as a result of being overweight. Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity, is increasing among children , and binge drinking is a growing problem. Health specialists have been saying for ages that one must get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. Not only will it keep weight in check but it can also lift mild depression, strengthen bones, and stave off heart disease.

The report says that cleaning windows, cutting the grass and vacuum cleaning, all count as moderate exercise. As a comparison, golf, brisk walking and doubles tennis also count as moderate exercise. If you do 30 minutes of moderate household chores a day, five days a week, your fitness will improve. But, be warned, not all household activities fall into the moderate category. Don’t think you can get away with 30 minutes of ironing and dusting a day. These count merely as “light” activities and are no healthier than a slow dawdle down to the pub. Unfortunately, no household chores count as vigorous exercise, so don’t expect to be competing in the lawn-mowing Olympics any time soon.

The British health secretary, John Reid, recently called for a public debate about how to improve the country’s health. These include discussing whether the UK should ban smoking in public places and restrict junk food advertising. Reid feels that efforts to reduce levels of obesity have been concentrated on those already involved in sporting activity. Now it’s time to find alternative ways of shedding weight. But tidying up your house? Jason Behenna, who has been in the gym business for more than 15 years says, “If a person does no exercise whatsoever, then possibly you may be able to lose a bit of weight - in conjunction with a controlled or calorie restricted diet.

If what Donaldson is saying is correct, domestic cleaners must be in pretty good shape. I asked Ali Gullen of whether he has a finely honed body. “It keeps me fit,” he says, “but I’d prefer to go to a gym.” And that’s one rub - what domestic cleaner can afford to join a fitness club? There is a link between obesity and income. Roughly, the less you earn, the more likely you are to be overweight. Not many people earning a basic wage can afford the hefty annual membership most big-name gyms charge. For example, an annual membership to The Third Space in Soho, London costs pounds Sterling 1,100 a year. People who can afford this sort of price tag can usually afford to pay someone else to clean their house.

Nigel Wallace, executive director of the UK’s Fitness Industry Association (FIA) and clearly a man keen to prevent a mass defection from the running machine to the ironing board protests, “Gym memberships start at as little as pounds Sterling 15 a month and many leisure centres offer concessions for those on income support. Going to the gym doesn’t have to be expensive and compares very favourably with other leisure activities such as going to the cinema, bowling, going to the pub, playing bingo or even watching a video.” Harm Tegelaars, chief executive of Cannons Health and Fitness, a fitness club chain across the UK, supports the British government’s commitment to make the British healthier individuals. “The key is that people understand that low- and moderate-level exercise activities (mowing the lawn, walking an extra stop to catch the bus) should form the base level of physical activity,” he says. “We can then build on these levels to help members get to the next level of achieving specific health and fitness goals. This may require more specific activity and often more vigorous exercise.”