Do the Dishes and Take Out the Trash

15 Household Tasks That Burn Major Calories

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Person using a snow shovel in winter

Feel the Burn

If you can't make it to the gym and can't get motivated to work out at home, simple household chores and yardwork can add exercise to your day — with the bonus of a sparkling house and immaculate yard. Here are some of the biggest calorie-burners,  including a controversial chore that some experts say you might be better off skipping entirely. 

Calculations come from FitDay for a 160-pound, 50-year-old woman. If you're a man, or if you weigh more, you'll likely burn more.  

Related: Natural Ways to Boost Energy and Fight Fatigue

Carrying Boxes and Moving Furniture

Carrying Boxes and Household Items

Calories burned: 356 
There's little time to go to the gym during a big move, but that might be for the best. Carrying all those boxes and moving things from place to place can torch more than 350 calories in an hour. Squat while bending down to pick up heavy objects to burn more calories, as well as avoid straining back muscles.

Related: Moving Nightmares (and How to Avoid Them)

Scrubbing the Floors

Scrubbing the Floors

Calories burned: 267
Dingy floors? Get down on your hands and knees with a scrub brush to burn close to 270 calories in an hour. For an even better workout, try contracting your abs every time you reach out with a cloth or sponge. Breaking out the mop isn't quite as good a workout, but an hour of mopping can still burn more than 200 calories. 

Hand with glove removing autumn leaves from gutter
Marc Dufresne/istockphoto

Cleaning Gutters

Calories burned: 237
Cleaning gutters probably ranks pretty low on most people's list of preferred ways to spend a Saturday, but there is an upside: Just an hour doing this dreaded job burns well over 200 calories. Even better, climbing and grabbing to complete the task engages muscles throughout the body, and staying balanced on a ladder engages core muscles.

Related: Home Maintenance Mistakes You Need to Stop Making



Calories burned: 237 
The satisfaction of caring for those prize petunias is multiplied when you realize that gardening is also a way to get some exercise. Power tools like tillers have the most calorie-burning power (297 for every hour of use), followed by digging (237), weeding (208), and planting (178).

Related: Tips to Keep Gardening Dirt Cheap



Calories burned: 208
Resist the urge to spend big on a professional paint job. An hour of DIY interior painting can burn more than 200 calories — and save you money. It also works major muscles as you squat and stretch to reach every corner. Got some exterior painting to do? That burns about 20 calories more.

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Mowing Lawn

Mowing the Lawn

Calories burned: 208
Walking behind a typical self-propelled power mower for an hour can obliterate more than 200 calories. Increase the burn to nearly 300 calories by using a push mower instead. Just resist the temptation to splurge on a riding mower, which would let you burn only 89 calories in the same amount of time.

Raking the Lawn
Levent Konuk/shutterstock

Raking the Lawn

Calories burned: 178
Step away from the leaf blower and grab that dusty rake – an hour of clearing leaves off the lawn burns nearly 180 calories. That puts raking on par with a brisk walk. It also helps build upper-body and core strength.

Related: Home Projects for Fall — and Products That Make Them Easier

Caring for a Small Child
Moyo Studio/istockphoto

Caring for a Child

Calories burned: 148
Everyone knows kids can be exhausting, but exactly how much energy do they require? You can burn close to 150 calories in an hour of typical child care, including dressing, bathing, feeding, and, of course, occasionally picking them up and putting them down. Getting outside to run around with them can more than double the burn.

Adding Oil

Fixing the Car

Calories burned: 119 

Whether you love to tinker or just appreciate the dollars you can save by changing your own oil, flushing the radiator, or even putting on a new set of tires, keeping busy in the garage can be its own form of exercise. 

Related: Lies Your Mechanic Has Told You

Carrying Groceries Upstairs
Techa Tungateja/istockphoto

Carrying Groceries Upstairs

Calories burned: 104
Take heart if you live in a walk-up: Just 15 minutes of hauling groceries upstairs burns more than 100 calories. Carrying bags and climbing stairs is especially effective because it combines cardio and strength training.

Vacuuming the Floors

Vacuuming and Dusting

Calories burned: 89 
Give the whole house a thorough vacuuming or dusting to zap about 90 calories in an hour. Pushing a vacuum engages your arm muscles; to get your legs in the game, try doing lunges and work those thighs.

Cooking and Food Preparation

Cooking and Food Prep

Calories burned: 89 
Even preparing family meals can help burn some calories — a bit under 100 in an hour for light food prep, to be exact. Get an even better workout by dancing while cooking and throwing in some squats while loading or unloading the dishwasher.

Related: 30 Kitchen Essentials That Are Built to Last

Close-up woman's hand washing dishes over kitchen sink.

Washing the Dishes

Calories burned: 77 

Standing at the sink and scrubbing dishes isn't the most strenuous task, but an hour of dish-washing sure is a better calorie-burner than a couple minutes of loading up the dishwasher.

Marcel Jancovic/shutterstock


Calories burned: 208
Given the risks associated with shoveling, it's good to know that even the "lazy" alternative can be a workout. An hour of snowblowing can zap more than 200 calories. But as with shoveling, the combination of cold weather and maneuvering through snow can put stress on the heart, particularly if the snow is deep, so take similar precautions.

Related: Best Snow Blowers Under $500

Shoveling Snow
Brett Taylor/istockphoto

Shoveling Snow

Calories burned: 297 
An hour of shoveling snow can zap about 300 calories. However, experts say this is a chore that demands extreme caution. Some recommend against it entirely for anyone who's middle-aged or older, saying the risk of heart attacks can be too great. One doctor even tells USA Today that people as young as 45 should consider skipping shoveling. Other risks include soft-tissue and lower-back injuries. If you decide to shovel anyway, be sure to warm up, pace yourself, and push heavy snow instead of lifting it whenever possible.

Related: Things to Keep in Your Car for Safe Winter Driving