Less Housework Means Weight Gain for Women

By: Dr. Alwyn Wong | Obesity | Monday, March 11, 2013 - 12:02 PM

cleaning!If your husband offers to help with the housework, you may want to think twice before you take him up on the offer.  A lack of physical activity is a known contributing factor to weight gain and obesity.

The decrease in the amount of housework being performed by women in recent years compared to decades ago may be contributing to the rising levels of obesity that are being seen in today’s society, according to a recent study published in PLosOne.

While doing less housework may seem like a wonderful idea, it may have a devastating effect on your waistline according to this research.

Housework Decreases – What This Means for Weight Gain in Women

Researchers looked at historical data from women 19-64 years of age, from 1965-2010, investigating how much time and energy was spent on household chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.).  The results showed that in 1965, women spent an average of 25.7 hours per week on household chores, while in 2010 women were only spending 13.3 hours on housework. Women who were unemployed decreased their household task hours by about 17 hours while working women decreased their household chore hours by about 7 hours.

Disturbingly, women were found to be spending their extra time plopped in front of the television.  The researchers found that in 1965, women typically spent about 8 hours per week watching television programs.  In 2010, the number of hours spent watching television increased to 16.5 a week. This type of inactivity can lead to weight gain and obesity.

What This Means for Weight Gain, Obesity and Energy Expenditure

In addition to finding that women were spending less time on household chores in 2010 compared to 1965, the researchers also discovered that the amount of energy that women expend on household chores decreased by 42% in unemployed women from 1965 to 2010.  In 1965, women were burning 6,004 calories per week on household tasks compared to only 3,486 calories in 2010.  This amounts to a decrease of 2,518 calories being burned on a weekly basis.  If the amount of calories eaten exceeds the amount of calories burned, weight gain is inevitable.  As women expend less energy on household chores and spend more time sitting around watching television, their energy intake is far greater than their energy out.  This will lead to weight gain and possibly obesity if they continue.

Increase Physical Activity to Defend Against Obesity

The increasing accessibility of dishwashers and other small appliances that make every day household tasks a little easier and less time consuming has led to a significant decrease in the amount of physical activity and energy expenditure required to perform house work.  Instead of using the free time gained from advances in technology to watch television, women should be engaging in other forms of physical activity to make up for the lack of calories that they would be burning doing household chores.  This will help to prevent weight gain and help to prevent the development of obesity.

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While some women may get defensive about this research, the researchers do stress that they are not saying the women (or men) should do more housework; but rather that individuals should think about how much energy they expend in a day.  In order to prevent the levels of obesity from climbing even higher, attention needs to be focused on calories intake versus calories output.  Once people understand the effect that calories play on weight gain and obesity, they will have a better understanding on how to monitor and change their diet if necessary.

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