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Housecleaning might not be the best exercise

I walked into a fight two friends of mine were having the other day. She thinks that her cleaning housework - vacuuming, dusting, mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors - is good exercise. He thinks it isn’t.

Who’s right?

All exercise is good exercise, so in that sense, Patty is right, but not completely. Housecleaning is not a fitness sport. Patty is not doing it hard enough or long enough to lift her pulse into her target heart rate zone and keep it there long enough to have a training effect. Still, to be fair, cleaning house is a kind of exercise.

It definitely burns calories. A 130-pound woman - a weight Patty aspires to - can burn about 221 calories after an hour of mopping. An hour of window-washing comes in at about 208 calories. If Patty could convince Tom to spend an hour dusting, he could burn up about 192 calories.

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Domestic chores can also stretch and tone major muscle groups, but I know Patty and her house and the fact of the matter is, she’s not getting enough of a workout to really get herself fit. In that sense, I have to side with husband Tom.

Cleaning house is good exercise, but it’s not good enough. Patty needs to combine her housecleaning chores with some more traditional aerobic activity, such as walking, biking or swimming. She should be enjoying at least three or four 30-minute workouts a week, plus a session or two a week for strength-training. Then she and her lovely house could be in good shape.

What are the signs of overtraining?

Dear Marilynn: My 17-year-old daughter is very serious about sports. She is a triathlete who runs, swims and bicycles and some days she spends more than three hours in the gym or outside at a nearby park.

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I’m worried that she is overtraining. How can I tell if she is overdoing it?

  • D.L., Pensacola, Fla.

Training for triathlons can be a great way for any youngster to build strength, confidence and lifetime fitness habits. But overtraining can be a problem and lead to injuries, burn-out and addictive malfunction.
How can you tell if your daughter is overtraining? Look for the warning signs:

  • Persistent fatigue even on non-training days.
  • Nagging injuries that increase in number and refuse to heal.
  • Sudden or unexplained drops in body weight.
  • A rise in her resting heart rate.
  • Workouts that are more effort than fun.

Show this list of signs to your daughter and talk them over. Does she have a coach or trainer you can include in the discussion? There’s a fine line between healthy concern and undue anxiety, so don’t assume that just because your daughter is working hard she’s overdoing it.
Success in sports takes hard work and discipline. But it should be fun, too. If your daughter is bored, tired and in pain, she needs to slow down and reassess her training regimen.

Roundup on Curves: Does it really work?

Millions of women love to work out at Curves, the no-nonsense, 30-minute, circuit-training gym that is now the fastest-growing franchise - in any category - in U.S. history.

The question is: Does it really work? How intense is the workout? How many calories do you actually burn?

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I found the answers to those pressing questions recently in an American Council on Exercise study published in the FitnessMatters newsletter. Here’s a little summary of what they found:

  • The total 30-minute Curves workout burns an average of 184 calories - about half a Krispy Kreme donut - while the 25-minute circuit alone burns 163 calories. That puts it into the category of a moderately intense workout, similar to walking two 15-minute miles on a flat treadmill.
  • The workout is better than a brisk walk because it involves resistance training for the upper body and core, as well as the legs.
  • Researchers reported the overall results as very positive in terms of people getting their heart rates up into their target zones and keeping them there long enough to improve aerobic capacity.
  • The researchers, while mostly positive, threw the franchise a few curves. First, the resistance-training machines in the Curves circuit are not adjustable, so some people will be less comfortable on the machines than others. Second, some women seem more interested in chatting than exercising.

And third, though most of the staff at Curves are excellent motivators, their fitness knowledge needs improving.

  • Bottom line? For very active women, Curves is not that great a workout, but for those who have been sedentary, it could be just what they need. The no-frills, nurturing half hour works and has arguably done more to get inactive women exercising than any other fitness trend or organization in the history of exercise.

Roses are red, violets are blue, reciting poems is good for you.
According to research reported in the International Journal of Cardiology, reciting old-fashioned poetry - like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline” - can benefit a stressed-out heart. Researchers asked people wearing high-tech heart rate monitors to walk around the room, reciting long lyrical poems, breathing in time to the poem’s beat.

The finding? Heart rates slowed, giving the heart muscle a rest, and vagal tone increased. Low vagal tone is linked to heart attack and stroke.

Write Marilynn Preston in care of The Light, 565 Pearl St., Suite 300, La Jolla, 92037.