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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Does doing housework keep you healthy? The contribution of domestic physical activity to meeting current recommendations for health

Marie H Murphy1*, Paul Donnelly2, Gavin Breslin1, Simon Shibli3 and Alan M Nevill4

Author Affiliations

1 Sport & Exercise Sciences Research Institute, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim BT37 0QB, UK

2 Sport Northern Ireland, Belfast, UK

3 Sport Industry Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

4 School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall, UK

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:966  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-966

Published: 18 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Recent lifestyle approaches to physical activity have included the promotion of domestic physical activities such as do-it-yourself or home maintenance, gardening and housework. Although it is acknowledged that any activity is better than none, there is a danger that those undertaking domestic ‘chores’ may assume that this activity is moderate intensity and therefore counts towards this 150 minute per week target The purpose of this paper was to report the contribution domestic physical activity makes to total weekly physical activity and the relationship between domestic physical activity and leanness in the Northern Ireland population.

Methods

4563 adults participated in this cross-sectional survey of physical activity behaviour. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews using computer assisted personal interviewing. Gender and age group differences in domestic MVPA activity and the ratio of domestic to total MVPA were explored using non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests. Self-reported volume and intensity of physical activity (in bouts of 10 minutes or more) in the home and self-reported height and weight were used to determine the association between domestic physical activity and leanness using an ANCOVA having controlled for age, gender, socio-economic and smoking status.

Results

42.7% of the population report levels of physical activity which meet or exceed the current United Kingdom recommendations. Domestic physical activity accounts for 35.6% of the reported moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). For women, if domestic physical activity was excluded from total MVPA, only 20.4% would be deemed to meet current recommendations. Time spent in domestic physical activity at moderate or vigorous intensity was found to be negatively associated with leanness (P = 0.024), [R Squared = .132 (Adjusted R Squared = .125)].

Conclusions

Domestic physical activity accounts for a significant proportion of self-reported daily MVPA particularly among females and older adults however such activity is negatively associated with leanness suggesting that this activity may not be sufficient to provide all of the benefits normally associated with meeting the physical activity guidelines.