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Your Own Space is the Place to Start Exercising: Energy Express

By Marilynn Preston

Many otherwise smart people freak out at the thought of starting an exercise program. They know it would make them healthier, but the whole thing sounds overwhelming. They don't like the outfits, they don't belong to a gym, they are ashamed of how their body looks. To these men and women I have one word to say: vacuum.

Cleaning up your house -- washing dishes and floors, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, etc. -- can burn as many as 1,000 calories a week, according to official calorie-counting sources. Enthusiastic housekeeping also gets your body in motion, and you'd be surprised how much your systems benefit from bending and lifting, reaching and rotating, stair-climbing and carrying.

These are little moves that -- if done with care and hot music -- can make a big difference in how you look and feel. Why? Because if you don't keep your body active, nasty and painful symptoms begin to ruin your day. The joints get dry and sore. The muscles get weak and easily injured. The juices don't flow. When this happens, your body begins to talk to you. It says "I hurt" or "I'm not going to work today" or -- worst for the waistline -- "I need a Snickers."

The good news is that study after study has shown that great benefits await you if only you shift from a sedentary lifestyle to a more active one. Those activities can be traditional sports -- running, tennis, swimming -- or they can be washing a car, vacuuming and gardening. This may surprise you, but your body doesn't know the difference. Dancing equals running. Move it and groove it. It's a good thing.

One last thing to mention before you fire the maid: Enthusiastic housecleaning is not an aerobic activity. It will not get you ready to run a marathon or downhill ski, and it doesn't get your heart beating in your target zone long enough to perform major miracles on your cardiovascular system.

For that, you have to go aerobic: vigorous walking, running, biking, swimming, elliptical cross-training. If you're already doing that -- aerobic workouts 3-5 times a week that last at least 30 minutes a session -- good for you. Keep going. Housecleaning, for exercise, won't really appeal to you.

But if you're stuck in the rut of inactivity, of living a sedentary lifestyle that is leading you to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain kinds of cancers, you should know the choice is yours.

You can sit there, eating chicken fingers, making excuses that you have no time, no money, no place to exercise. Or you can realize that charity begins at home, and the kindest thing you can do to your body is exercise your right to put on your favorite comfy clothes, crank up the beat that gets your mojo going and go find those dust balls.

When it comes to fitness, I can advise you. I have earned my credentials as an A.C.E. certified trainer, and I know my stuff. When it comes to expert housecleaning, there's a hole in my bucket. I must turn to others for the best tips. Eureka! I shouted when I tore this "Cleaning Made Easy" ad out of a recent copy of Health magazine. It was paid for by one of the leading manufacturers of quality vacuums. Suck it up:

  • CREATE A CHECKLIST. Before you clean, make a list of what has to be done. Then, as soon as you finish a task, you make a big check mark. (Not on the wall.) It's very satisfying and will motivate you to continue cleaning.
  • START AT THE TOP. I knew this one from washing the front windows of my car: Start at the top so you can catch the drips. I didn't know it also applies to dusting a bookshelf or cleaning the inside of your fridge. It does.
  • WORK IN A TEAM. This is my favorite tip, and I do believe it makes cleaning more fun. Never clean alone. Always enlist a spouse, partner, child, roommate, friend, enemy, pretty much any person within earshot, to pitch in and clean with you.

Lifting is the same whether you're picking up a dumbbell or moving a table. Engage your core muscles, straighten your back, use your legs. And hugely important in all chores, sports and life as we know it: Breathe consciously.

Marilynn Preston -- fitness expert, personal trainer and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues -- is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com.

Categories: Just for me, Take Care of You, Women's Health,

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