People who do most housework are largest, study says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:09am

Anyone who thinks that washing the dishes, doing a spot of cleaning or pushing a vacuum cleaner around counts as exercise should stop reading now.

Research has claimed to debunk official health advice that said household chores help keep you active by proving that people who do the most housework are also the most overweight.

The findings challenge Public Health England and the World Health Organisation's endorsement of household chores as contributing towards a recommended target of 150 minutes of physical activity a week.

A study of 4,563 adults, carried out by Professor Marie Murphy and her colleagues at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, found that women and older people were particularly likely to list "domestic physical activity [as] a significant proportion of [their] moderate to vigorous physical activity".

But the study found that those who said they did the most were also the largest.

Murphy said: "We found housework was inversely related to leanness, which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate-intensity physical activity they do through housework or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity undertaken."

Kevin Fenton, director of health and well-being at Public Health England, said the study could reinforce evidence that some people thought they were healthier than they actually were.

"At an individual level there may be a tendency to overestimate the level of 'good behaviour' we're doing and this is reflected when people use food diaries, pedometers or apps to measure more objectively what they have achieved. This study may reflect this," he said.

But he defended everyday tasks as genuinely useful. He said: "From an individual perspective, physical activities such as housework, doing the shopping and walking to collect children from school or to post a letter, can have positive impacts on physical and mental well-being.

"People who are even more active will often see greater benefits and it is important to recognise that healthy weight is just one of the potential outcomes of physical activity."