9 Ways to Make Your Chores More Like a Cardio Workout

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A few simple body-weight exercises can turn chores into a legit cardio workout that only takes minutes.
Image Credit: Maskot/Maskot/GettyImages

In a perfect world, we'd all have plenty of time (at least 30 minutes, five times a week) set aside to engage in heart-pumping cardio.

"Cardiovascular fitness is essential to maintaining a healthy heart," says Lauren Wilson, senior master instructor for CycleBar. It's linked a bevy of amazing body benefits, she explains, including stable blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and more energy.

But in the real world, it's just not always possible to find the time. Plus, some of us don't want to slog through long stretches of running or biking. The good news: You don't need to.

Quick bouts of exercise can also be highly effective: According to a small April 2016 study in PLOS One, even just one minute of intense activity provides benefits. In other words, every little bit counts!

A great way to sneak in some workout minutes: the everyday chores on your to-do list. There's always something to clean, fold or put away — and when these household duties are paired with workout moves, you can easily rack up more overall active time.

Plus, considering many of us are hunkered down at home during the novel coronavirus pandemic (think: more days spent sitting hunched over your laptop or streaming your new favorite show), finding little ways to add in more exercise may be just what your mind, body and spirit need.

Here are a few ways to carve up your cardio and sprinkle it throughout your chore list to get that ticker, well, ticking.

1. Do Lunges While You Vacuum

Lunges are a fantastic way to strengthen the legs and the core. "They increase stability in unilateral movements and strengthen our walking and/or running mechanics," says Ash Wilking, a Nike trainer and Rumble instructor.

Simply set a timer, and every 90 seconds, put your vacuuming on pause and lunge it out. Once you've mastered proper lunge form, pick up the pace for a hit of cardio.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Step your right foot back, landing on the ball of your foot and keeping your heel off the floor.
  3. Bend both knees to 90 degrees, lowering until your left quad and right shin are parallel to the floor.
  4. Drive through your front heel to return to standing.
  5. Switch legs and repeat, then continue vacuuming.

2. Make Checking the Mail a 5-Minute Circuit

Since grabbing the mail is an everyday occurrence, it's the perfect way to make cardio a daily act. Before heading to her mailbox to collect her daily haul, Wilson adds in this short routine.

Alternate between jumping jacks and stationary high knees, doing each for 30 seconds. Start with five minutes, adding a minute each week until you reach 10.

Move 1: Jumping Jacks

  1. Stand upright with your legs together, arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and jump into the air.
  3. As you jump, spread your legs to about shoulder-distance apart and stretch your arms out and over your head.
  4. Jump back to the starting position and repeat.

Move 2: Stationary High Knees

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Lift your right knee as high as you can (but at least to hip level) while simultaneously bending your left elbow and raising your left arm in a running motion.
  3. Quickly switch arms and legs, running in place for 30 seconds.

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3. Squat When You're Dusting

Take a high-low approach to washing the refrigerator door or dusting the bathroom walls by adding a pop squat for a plyometric cardio boost to the classic body-weight squat, Wilking says.

  1. Stand tall with your feet together.
  2. Hop your feet out to slightly wider than hip-distance apart as you lower down into a squat. Keep your chest up and back flat as you hinge at the hips to sit back and down.
  3. Simultaneously touch one hand to the floor between your legs.
  4. Rise back up to standing and hop your feet back together.

4. Turn Emptying the Dishwasher Into a Cardio-Blast Challenge

"This is a fun way to sneak in some cardio with a dynamic routine that targets the full body and will leave you feeling energized," Wilson says.

Complete the listed exercise whenever you put one of five key items away.

  • Bowl = 5 jump squats
  • Pot/Pan = 1-minute run in place
  • Plate = 5 jumping jacks
  • Mug = 5 burpees
  • Cup or glass = 5 skaters

Move 1: Jump Squat

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. With your weight in your heels, engage your core, keep your chest up and squat down, bringing your butt back while extending your arms above your head. Don't let your knees drop inward.
  3. Drive through your heels into a jump, simultaneously moving your arms down and back for momentum.

Move 2: Running in Place

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides.
  2. Engage your core and lift your feet only an inch or two off the ground as you run in place. Simultaneously bend and raise your arms in a running motion. Visualize yourself running and try to pick up your pace.

Move 3: Jumping Jacks

  1. Stand upright with your legs together, arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and jump into the air.
  3. As you jump, spread your legs to about shoulder-distance apart and stretch your arms out and over your head.
  4. Jump back to the starting position and repeat.

Move 4: Burpee

  1. Stand with your feet at least shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, just outside of your feet.
  3. Jump both feet back into a high plank position.
  4. Lower down into a push-up, bringing your chest to touch the floor.
  5. Press back up into your plank.
  6. Jump your feet back in toward your hands.
  7. Explosively jump into the air, reaching your arms straight overhead and repeat.

Move 5: Skater

  1. Start with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Step your right leg behind you at a slight angle and lower into a reverse lunge. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees and swing your arms in front of your left knee.
  3. Leap your right leg wide to switch sides as you simultaneously swing your arms in front of your right knee.
  4. Land gently and immediately leap back to the left.
  5. Continue to alternate sides like a speed skater.

Check out more of our quick workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.

5. Try Kickbacks When You Sweep

Get your lower body in on the action as you push your broom, mop or Swiffer around the house, suggests Katia Pryce, founder and CEO of DanceBody. Sprinkle 10 reps into your cleaning routine.

  1. Start in a low lunge, with your left foot planted in front and your left knee bent to 90 degrees, with your right leg extended behind you.
  2. Move your mop or broom forward and lift and kick your right leg back, turning your toes slightly out.
  3. Lower your right leg.
  4. Switch the position of your feet and repeat on the other side.

6. Dance While You Wash Windows

"Dance is cardio," Pryce says. "It's just the fun kind." Inject some fun into window-washing and keep your core engaged throughout, and "you will soon feel the sweat coming on," she says. Aim for 10 per side.

  1. Start with your right hand just above your right shoulder on the window.
  2. Draw a zig zag with your hand on the window, moving your upper body to match the motion.

7. Add Mountain Climbers After You Do the Dishes

Once you're done with the dishes and you've wiped down the counters, use those soggy towels to get your heart rate up.

"Mountain climbers are a great full-body movement," Wilking says. "By using towels under the toes, you remove the impact of jumping the feet out and in."

  1. Start in a high plank position, balancing on your palms and toes with your body in a straight line from heels to hips to head. Keep your palms under your shoulders and your back in a neutral position.
  2. On an exhale, engage your core and drive your right knee up toward your chest.
  3. Return your right knee to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the other side, driving your left knee to your chest.Alternate between right and left as quickly as you can while maintaining the plank position.

8. Use the Kitchen Counter to Modify a Push-Up

This move recruits lesser-used stabilizer muscles in your upper body while spiking your heart rate, Pryce says. Just make sure to focus on working against the resistance of the wipes on your counter, she adds.

  1. Start with both hands on wipes on your counter.
  2. While keeping your arms straight, slide your hands out to a wide push-up position.
  3. Lower into a push-up, bending your arms at 45 degrees away from your torso.
  4. Press up, then slide your hands back to starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps.

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9. Sprint as You Suds Up the Car

Think of sprints as strength training for your heart, Wilking says. "When you take off in a sprint, you require maximum effort from your muscles, asking your heart to pump harder."

Next time your car needs a wash, take advantage of being outdoors by sneaking in some sprints. (You can even cool off with the hose when you're done!)

Set a timer for three to five minutes (depending on how dirty your car is!) and complete four, 10-second sidewalk sprints when the timer goes off — then reset it and repeat.

Tip

If you're looking for something a little lower-intensity, swap the sprints for eight lateral shuffles, Wilking says.

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