Housework is exercise. That’s why we need to do it properly.


Cleaning up the house or yard can be good for us as well as our surroundings. But only if we use our bodies well and avoid injury. Here are three pointers for doing that.

  1. Use your inner corset muscles

In any activity that’s vigorous, asymmetrical or involves changes of direction — such as sweeping leaves, digging, vacuuming or cleaning walls — you need to protect your spine.

Nature gave us a corset of muscles that wrap around and support the spine when they contract. We typically refer to these as our ‘core’.

Ideally, we’d all know how to use this area but if you don’t, it’s not too late to learn.

Imagine wading into the ocean. The water is freezing cold. As the level rises, your instinct would be to draw yourself in and up, away from the water. Your pelvic floor and corset muscles would contract, elongating and narrowing your torso.

This doesn’t mean sucking in your belly or holding your breath, although icy water might lead to breath holding. Remember you need to be able to do physical work while you use these muscles.

If we don’t protect our spine, it’s exposed to too much wear and tear. Ultimately that can mean back issues or referred pain that shows up somewhere else but comes from our back.

  1. Keep your shoulders back and your neck tall and relaxed

The aim is to keep our shoulders softly rolled behind us rather than hunching forward. In the forward position we’re squeezing the tendons and nerves that run through our shoulder joint. Too much of this and they’ll get inflamed.

In a culture where we’ve become used to leaning over devices with our head poking forward, this takes deliberate attention.

We also want to keep plenty of space between our shoulders and ears to spare the discs and other tissues in our neck.

If you find your shoulders creeping up, try to relax them down, and if you have the forward head habit, softly drop your chin a little.

  1. Bend with a straight back

We all do plenty of bending. But whether it’s to pick up something with no weight, like a sock, or something heavier like a pot plant or a chair, our posture matters. Bending down to pull out a weed is another example.

The aim is to point our bottom behind us and keep our back straight. That’s Joan Baez in the photo and she’s a great example. A rounded back puts unnecessary pressure on our discs.

And use those core muscles to take care of your spine.

When we’re doing these kinds of jobs, our attention is often on getting them out of the way. But a moment of thought to check that we’re using our bodies well pays dividends in the long run.


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