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Try the Housework Gym Routine: Get Your Body and House in Shape Together!

By Ilene Marcus October 16, 2022 Health and Fitness

Why pay for the gym, when real life chores are so much more beneficial? Not to mention, I need a solution that saves time, money and is practical. It’s a retirement conundrum: the gym has become inconvenient.

Of course, I still get a sense of accomplishment when I swim 66 laps in 30 minutes, but can I carry 10 pounds of groceries up icy stairs and keep my balance? Not as well as I do those laps.

It seems not falling on the icy stairs and breaking the eggs (let alone my hip) is the goal these days. I had to face the truth, I needed exercises that would make life easier. I needed to make my housework my new workout. Could I learn to embrace it? And dare I say, enjoy it?

Home Vacuuming vs. Gym Membership

It turns out, I was paying for the wrong services. I actually like to vacuum, but, for years, I paid people to do that, as a basic necessity in my “super working mom” persona. Whoops, forgot to adjust that, now that I’m semi-retired.

Going to the gym itself is a chore. Getting ready, being on time – even for a favorite class. Gauging when it’s not crowded. Parking.

Is the payoff of going to the gym worth the planning, time and effort to coordinate the gym bag, workout clothes and where to shower when you are not already out and about and en-route to another activity? For me, no. No, it is not.

Save time and money by taking back all your chores! Do your own vacuuming, laundry and cleaning to burn real calories while taking care of your house.

For those of you who find a sense of accomplishment in your gym workout, let me tell you: seeing that floor shine always makes me feel fantastic!

In terms of dressing for your home workout, there are more options than ever. You can dress sexy or cool, or even wear a little maid outfit if you decide. Now that’s an extra personal benefit.

Workout Goals: Bending, Lifting and Awareness

The goal is to make your everyday chores and activities easier to do. And to accomplish that, you will need to do them more often and better.

Are the pots in the bottom drawer? Leave them there and seriously squat, not bend, the entire time you are searching for anything. Use all of the shelves and drawers and space in your kitchen, especially the upper and lower real estate. Bend, stretch, reach. Repeat.

Lift the laundry, the garbage, the books and papers. Lift from your core, pull your shoulders back, suck your stomach in and balance. Hold this pose while carrying anything up or downstairs and generally strutting around.

Make more small trips, consciously using stairs, a step stool, a ladder. Find reasons to stand and balance with whatever materials (and crap) you have in your house that need to be moved, cleaned around, organized or removed.

Invest in 3 Items for a No-Fail 5-Step Routine

  • Balance board
  • Stretching band
  • Big bouncy ball

These three basic toning supplies have been present in every course of physical therapy I have had, no matter the presenting epicenter. Ankle, hip, shoulder, foot, hand or thigh, they all use these exercises!

They are the bread and butter of PT and OT. Suggested by every Nurse Practitioner, Doctor, Chiropractor and Nurse because they are basic, simple and needed. It’s hard to screw them up, and by now, you should all know them.

I am, however, assuming (and it’s a big assumption) that everyone has a yoga mat, probably resting in a corner and making you feel guilty. This is your chance to get rid of that guilt. Use it now. If not, the quick fix is to use a towel or blanket.

Basic Routine: 30 Repetitions each exercise. 3 sets of 10 each. (You can find videos on YouTube for basic instructions.)

  • Sit-ups with feet in table-top position on big bouncy ball.
  • Bridges with ball between knees squeezing inner thighs.
  • Standing squats with big bouncy ball against the wall.
  • Balance board: Balance for 30 seconds, not letting the board touch the ground. Work up to four minutes. Work up to balancing on one foot at a time. Keep working.
  • Wall pushups for upper back and shoulder strength.
  • Stretching band: Keep limber and hold each big muscle group for 1 minute. Don’t forget to stretch your calves separately. Repeat.

Errands and Dancing

Using errands and dancing for burning calories are old school tricks. We all know to park far away from the entrance, so we can have a long walk in the parking lot. If you use community transportation, get off a stop or two early.

Finally, in the store, go up and down every aisle (just don’t run people over) and every floor, depending on the layout. You can get in close to 4,000 steps with roughly only 40 minutes of walking.

That’s right, it’s 100 steps per minute for the average walker, so adjust accordingly. Also, this will allay your curiosity about what’s on sale and where the items you can never find are located (remember to write that down).

Dancing around the house to your favorite songs also burns calories and builds aerobic capacity. Think of your five favorite songs, each about 3–4 minutes long. That’s 15–20 minutes of enjoyable moving and grooving, instead of sitting and waiting.

You get extra points if you dance in your underwear. It adds excitement. According to the Lose It app, 15 minutes of general dancing burns 133 calories. That includes, folk, disco and line dancing.

Sorry, slow ballroom dancing is only 39 calories for 15 minutes as is the horizontal Mumbo for general, moderate sexual activity.

The Cool Down – Slice an Apple

To cool down, you can slice an apple like William Shakespeare or Prince Henry because archery certainly counts as a work out. However, I am thinking more along the lines of an old apple slicer – the type that’s been in the family forever.

You must use all your brute force to bear down to get the apple into eight perfect pieces without getting stuck. It’s hard work. Reach all the way up for the cutting board. Then pirouette over to the fridge, bow to grab the cheese, arabesque to find a sharp knife, maintain perfect balance while thinly slicing the cheese.

Wrestle opening the olive jar, using all your strength while working out those arthritic thumbs. Use hand-eye coordination to plate the food and make it appealing.

Balance entire snack on tray while walking from kitchen to sofa table, dodging shoes so as not to spill one drop. Engage your stomach muscles, upper back, neck and shoulders to sit comfortably. Indulge.

Making your everyday chores your workout will boost your free time and make your house shine. Which moves will you incorporate into your workout routine?

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What do you think about substituting the gym with housework? Would you enjoy it? Which chore movement/exercise do you think would really benefit you? Please share in the comments below.

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I really loved this article. Thank you.

Patricia Matheson

Great idea. Totally killing 2 birds with one stone and the result is so feel good in every way. Actually 3 birds when you consider the financial savings and the sense of accomplishment…👏👏👏


Yes! Love being efficient! Budget watching in retirement very important

Farida Shah

I totally agree with you. Too much dependence on machines for doing even our routine household chores is spoiling us.


And my body is not the machine it once to keep it moving!

Jo-Anne Chappelle

I absolutely love this! Dance in your underwear ladies!


And make sure you love the underwear in your drawer or clean that out too!

The Author

Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA, is the author of Managing Annoying People and runs Aligned Workplace, speaking and training Leaders and Founders to attract and retain great employees. An emerging literary writer, her goal is to make you smile just a bit more. Please visit her website at

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