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Weekly challenge: do housework for exercise

If you haven’t been to the gym lately or donned a pair of sneakers, you may not think you’ve gotten any exercise, but all that puttering you do around your house really can count as physical activity in terms of its health benefits.

A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women who spent six hours a day doing household chores like vacuuming, washing dishes, or gardening were 13 percent less likely to develop breast cancer over two decades compared to those who weren’t active around the house. Those who did about two hours reduced their cancer risk by 8 percent.

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This study adds to others that have found that women who exercise strenuously for 30 to 45 minutes a day have about a 20 percent lower risk of breast cancer.

Other research suggests that 10 minute bursts of activity, like hauling laundry up and down the stairs, can also accumulate throughout the day to help protect our hearts. Men should pitch in too, since researchers have demonstrated that women’s levels of stress hormones go down after work when men assume some of the responsibilities of meal preparation and other chores.

While a session of weight lifting or a brisk walk outdoors will no doubt improve your physical fitness more than cutting up vegetables at the kitchen counter, you shouldn’t discount all those household tasks as non-activity. Anything that gets you off the couch on a regular basis can help improve your health.

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