Many of us want to know how to burn extra calories. We’ve all probably Googled ‘how to burn calories at home’ or ‘how many calories does watching TV burn?’. The answer is about 70 calories before you look it up!. Most people are preoccupied with calculating calories burned during exercise, but they neglect to consider the increased energy expenditure as a result of normal daily activities. You may be surprised to know what percentage of energy consumption is associated with burning calories without exercise. So, if that’s the case, how many calories does cleaning burn? What about calories burned mowing the lawn? This article investigates common questions such as:

  • What is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)?
  • How many calories can you burn cleaning?
  • Does cleaning the house count as exercise?
  • Does cleaning help lose weight?

Read on to find out the answer to all of the above along with the best way to burn calories at home!

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What is NEAT?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis identifies energy used by the body during certain activities other than sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. Activities accounted for under NEAT are vast and include the likes of daily steps count, house cleaning activities, gardening, cooking and even agricultural activities. Essentially, most activities that don’t involve structured exercise can be considered NEAT. The increased metabolic rate arising from a culmination of all of these activities results in the daily NEAT of an individual. As such, activities such as house cleaning are categorised as NEAT as opposed to exercise.

NEAT accounts for the second highest metabolic impact on the body after resting metabolic rate, which is attributed to over 50% of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). The percentage of energy consumed by NEAT differs amongst individuals and can range anywhere from 15% for more sedentary people to 50% for very active people. For instance, a person who does a day of shopping is likely to achieve a higher NEAT than on a day when they spend it relaxing in a spa. So if you feel more tired on a day when you’ve been busy cleaning/mowing the lawn/gardening, then you now understand why!

If you are engaging in a hectic day of activities, it’s always important to fuel your body with the adequate amounts of:

Importance of hydration, how much water should I drink, how much water are you supposed to drink daily

How many calories does cleaning burn?

A precise number cannot be assigned to specify exactly how many calories are burned cleaning. This is because energy expenditure is based on variable factors including gender, height, weight, activity type, intensity of activity and duration. Fortunately, estimate values can be calculated based on some basic facts including weight, type of activity and the length of time you spend completing the task.

Take, for instance, a 150lb person who engages in normal daily house cleaning activities; they could have the following calories burned while cleaning:

  • Ironing x 20 minutes = 50 calories
  • Making beds x 20 minutes = 46 calories
  • Mopping x 20 minutes = 42 calories
  • Sweeping x 10 minutes = 37 calories
  • Vacuuming x 10 minutes = 37 calories
  • Washing dishes x 10 minutes = 26 calories

So if this person spends 1 hour and 30 minutes cleaning using the above activities at those durations defined, they could expect to burn approximately 238 calories.

Perhaps this individual decides to venture outside and engages in some outdoor activities:

  • Mowing the lawn x 30 minutes = 196 calories
  • Washing the car x 30 minutes = 150 calories
  • Gardening x 30 minutes = 143 calories

These activities achieve a greater exertion on the body and so we observe a greater calorie consumption to the first scenario: 489 calories for 1 hour and 30 minutes of work.

To put the above activities into perspective in terms of how much energy they expend in comparison to regular exercise, a 150lb person could on average expect to have the following calories burned during exercise:

  • Cycling (moderate) x 30 minutes = 286 calories
  • Golf x 30 minutes = 161 calories
  • Bodyweight exercises x 30 minutes = 126 calories
  • Walking (moderate) x 30 minutes = 118 calories
  • Yoga x 30 minutes = 86 calories

So if this person engaged in 30 minutes of walking, cycling and yoga, they could anticipate an energy consumption of approximately 490 calories, which is equivalent to the work completed outdoors in the second scenario above!

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Does cleaning help lose weight?

Losing weight is based on the following: calories consumed must be less than calories expended. Cleaning (and all the other activities listed above) can lead to increased calories burned. But don’t expect weight to start dropping off you simply because you increased your NEAT by doing a bit more sweeping!

1 pound of fat = 3500 calories

Ignoring other factors such as water weight, if you want to lose 1 pound of fat, you need to achieve a calorie deficit of 3500 calories. So in short, yes calories burned by house cleaning can contribute to weight loss. However, it will take a bit of time, and you will also need to ensure a calorie deficit is achieved and maintained. Once you adopt a proper mindset towards weight loss, learn some patience and know that it will take time, and avoid quick ways to lose weight, you’re bound for greater success.

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Summary

  • NEAT activities can aid increased energy expenditure
  • The average person can achieve anywhere from 100-300 calories burned from cleaning
  • Cleaning the house is considered a NEAT activity as opposed to exercise
  • A good tactic is to adopt a balance between regular exercise and NEAT activities
  • Some activities consume higher energy, e.g. washing the car, mowing the lawn

Do you track NEAT activities such as daily steps? Will knowing this information about cleaning motivate you to clean more often? What activities around the house do you find labour-intensive? Post your comments and queries below!

Sources

Frey, M., 2020. Use A Housecleaning Workout To Burn More Calories Doing Chores. [online] Verywell Fit. Available at: https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-burn-more-calories-cleaning-house-3495596 [Accessed 19 April 2020].

Jackson, A., 2020. How Many Calories Does Housecleaning Burn? | Livestrong.Com. [online] LIVESTRONG.COM. Available at: https://www.livestrong.com/article/314390-how-many-calories-does-housecleaning-burn/ [Accessed 19 April 2020].

Levine, J., 2002. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 16(4), pp.679-702.

Sharecare. 2020. How Many Calories Can I Burn Doing Housework? | Calories. [online] Available at: https://www.sharecare.com/health/calories/how-calories-burn-doing-housework [Accessed 19 April 2020]

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14 Comments

  • Robb · 23/04/2020 at 10:45 PM

    First of all you can burn calories watching TV??? This is incredible news! lol… And I was excited to see you included washing dishes. I am a single Dad with two younger teenage daughters and I wash dishes about 7 times a day!! 🙂 Great post. Cheers

      Sharon · 24/04/2020 at 5:42 PM

      I’m glad you get enjoyment from that, you’ll have to start binge-watching more TV! Even better is that you burn a good few calories just sleeping too!

      Wow 7 times a day! I wonder will knowing that you’re burning calories make it any more enjoyable?

      Thank you, hope you enjoyed it.

      Sharon

    Michael · 24/04/2020 at 5:16 PM

    Food for thought here. I usually want to get any housework done as rapidly as possible! But maybe I should take more time and scrub harder. Definitely don’t take 20 minutes to make beds. I’d be interested to know about the calorific usage of walking and how a brisk walk might compare with a leisurely stroll. Thanks for the info.

      Sharon · 24/04/2020 at 5:47 PM

      Hi Michael,

      Perhaps doing it faster could burn even more calories again! It would be interesting to compare your heart rate when doing it at normal speed versus fast. For someone around 80kg walking slow would burn around 129 calories, at moderate speed, they would burn on average 141 calories, whereas brisk walking could achieve around 163 calories.

      Hope this answers your question!

      Sharon

    Bob · 24/04/2020 at 8:44 PM

    Good information on the amount of exercise it takes to burn off calories. I love the fact that whatever exercise or activity you do, it will burn some calories. Thanks for the information.

      Sharon · 25/04/2020 at 4:15 PM

      Hello,

      It sure is valuable to know, and reassuring in one sense too.

      Thanks for visiting and posting your comments on the page, it’s much appreciated.

      Best wishes,
      Sharon

    XGreg · 25/04/2020 at 2:05 PM

    What “Neat” information 😉
    I wonder how many calories I burn when I mow the yard. It takes me three hours on a riding mower and thirty minutes to weed eat around the house, fence, and trees. Don’t know why I threw that thought out into the open, but there it is🤗

      Sharon · 25/04/2020 at 4:21 PM

      Hi there,

      Why thank you, I enjoy how you “exercised” your brain there for that pun! (I apologise in advance for that terrible pun). Well, mowing the lawn using a push lawnmower x 30 minutes = 196 calories. The energy used on a ride-one would be lower, but then you can factor in that you’re doing it for 3 hours, which could equate to a nice amount of hopping on and off to empty the grass. It would be interesting to get your heart rate and steps for the activity. If you do this, I’d love to hear what you get.

      Thanks,
      Sharon

    Bob · 25/04/2020 at 3:21 PM

    That’s not a lot of calorie burn, but that’s the side benefit… the real benefit is the tidy home. If calorie burn or fat loss is the goal, there are better ways to spend your time. While it’s neat (pun intended) to have metrics assigned to those activities, the benefit/gain on the weight loss/calorie burn would be modest at best and hard to quantify… but it would grow my ‘husband of the year” points exponentially!
    Thanks for posting
    Bob

      Sharon · 25/04/2020 at 4:24 PM

      Hi Bob,

      You’ve hit the nail right on the head there, it’s really more of a side-benefit and possibly a motivator for people to clean. It’s also valuable for people who track NEAT as this can be a productive way to achieve NEAT targets.

      That’s probably true for many people, perhaps a more valuable calculator would be: how many brownie points can I earn by doing activity x for x minutes.

      Anyway, I digress!

      Sharon

    tariq · 25/04/2020 at 4:13 PM

    great article! A lot of people hate working out..but doing lots of small tasks as above, can mean you burn the calories without having to hit the gym…love it!

      Sharon · 25/04/2020 at 4:39 PM

      Hi there,

      Glad that the post has been of benefit. That’s true in a sense, just as well most gyms are closed these days anyway, especially if you don’t enjoy the gym.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting on my page!
      Sharon

    Partha · 25/04/2020 at 4:32 PM

    Hi Sharon,

    Well that made for a fascinating read, thank you.

    It does amaze me how all the little tasks we need to do around the house, in the garden, etc. eventually add up in terms of calories burnt.

    I typically exercise most days, but I rarely, if ever, take into consideration any other household chores or activities, when considering my calorie output and input. Big mistake I guess.

    And yes, I often notice I feel a little more fatigued after a day that’s included gardening or a spring clean. It actually makes perfect sense now.

    I think I have to point out the line in your article, “Cleaning the house is considered a NEAT activity”, I’m guessing no pun intended.

    Thanks
    Partha

      Sharon · 25/04/2020 at 4:59 PM

      Hi Partha,

      It sure does, at least you know now that you can justify doing less work on days when your NEAT activity is higher. Glad the article cleared that up for you!

      Wow, thank you for pointing out that pun, I must have subliminally made it. I hope you got a kick out of it as much as I just did!

      Thanks for your comment and visiting the page,
      Sharon

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