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Vacuum For A Healthy Household

By Professor Gordon S. Lynch

Vacuuming is generally considered good exercise, but a study has revealed that the type of vacuum cleaner used affects how hard the task is.

Household chores can drain your energy - particularly those that seem like they're never finished. But which chores burn the most energy? Judging by people with cardiovascular diseases such as angina, vacuum cleaning may be one task that is more physically demanding than others.

Angina is a recurring pain or discomfort in the chest that occurs when some part of the heart does not receive enough blood. It is a common symptom of cardiovascular disease and occurs when vessels carrying blood to the heart become narrowed and blocked due to atherosclerosis.

The symptoms of angina are generally felt during physical exertion and relieved within a few minutes by resting or by taking prescription medicine.

Surprisingly, even after a heart-related problem, women still take on the primary responsibility for most housekeeping tasks. And they often report that vacuuming is a chore that's difficult to perform.

Dr Joseph Norman and his colleagues from the Division of Physical Therapy and Department of Preventive and Societal Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center looked at an interesting aspect of this problem. They examined whether the type of vacuum cleaner used made a difference to the energy expended during vacuuming.

The researchers studied a number of different metabolic measurements in thirty-six healthy, middle-aged women who performed vacuuming or walking exercise on a treadmill. Vacuuming consisted of using five different models of vacuum cleaners, three upright models (heavy duty, self-propelled and lightweight) and two canister models (standard and compact) for 6 minutes each. The participants had to vacuum a 3.6 x 4.2-metre area of medium-pile carpet, free of obstructions, at the same pace they normally worked at home.

The study found that the physical demands of vacuuming varied depending on the type of vacuum cleaner model used.

Vacuuming with the self-propelled upright model resulted in lower oxygen consumption, heart rate and blood pressure responses compared with the other models. The self-propelled and standard canister with power-head features significantly reduced the energy expended during vacuuming, making it easier to perform the exercise.

The researchers concluded that this information should be taken into account when making recommendations for patients with a reduced capacity to perform exercise or those needing to reduce their exertion levels because of underlying cardiovascular disease.

Another take home message from the study could be that if you're healthy and looking to burn off a few extra kilojoules by doing a few household chores, choose a vacuum cleaner that doesn't do most of the work for you!


Norman JF, Kautz JA, Wengler HD, Lyden ER (2003) Physical demands of vacuuming in women using different models of vacuum cleaners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 35: 364-369