Folding clothes doesn't have to be a boring, sedentary activity.
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Although you can't meet all your exercise needs while folding clothes, household chores don't have to be a distraction from physical fitness. Instead, your time spent doing laundry is an ideal chance to get moving and work on improving your overall physical fitness. The goal is to keep your body moving and to continually challenge your muscles.
Particularly if you're folding clothes with someone else, laundry races can make the time you spend more fun and productive. If you're working alone, try timing yourself and try to beat previous times. Keep the emphasis on folding fast and getting your heart rate elevated. Try, for example, folding all of the socks, then running to the rooms where they're stored. Run back to the pile and focus on the next type of clothing. Alternatively, try breaking from laundry-folding to dart around your house putting pieces away at specific intervals -- every minute or every time you fold five pieces of clothing, for example.
Laundry requires you to move around your home -- a low-intensity form of cardiovascular exercise -- and lift objects, which offers some strength training. Circuit training is a great way to combine these movements. Select a couple of different exercises you can do while folding laundry, such as squats, lunges or pushups. Do five reps of these exercises every time you complete a specific laundry task, such as putting away all the underwear. Then, incorporate a brief circuit of cardiovascular training by running up stairs, doing jumping jacks or briskly walking through your house for a minute or two. You can get a fairly significant workout out of a single pile of clothes if you use each transition from one type of clothing to the next as an opportunity to do a brief set of exercises.
Stretching and Range of Motion
Laundry is a natural fit with stretching because you likely have to bend to put clothes away. When you put clothes in drawers, try completing the motion by bending to touch your toes. As you reach over to grab clothes on the other side of the bed or table as you fold them, gently stretch your back instead of just awkwardly reaching. Keep your spine straight, support your body with one hand and avoid stretching in an awkward position or just one direction. Also, if you have to reach up to put away shirts, stretch up and then do five calf raises. You can also perform dynamic stretches such as arm circles as you walk through your home putting away clothing.
A heavy pile of clothes can serve as a light weight that adds some resistance. Every time you pick up a stack of clothes, try doing five to 10 sets of lunges or squats. Strengthen your arms and shoulders by lifting the laundry bin above your head a few times. If you're stuck lifting heavy pieces of wet laundry from the washing machine, take advantage of the resistance and do biceps curls or triceps extensions. As you gain strength, consider incorporating hand weights into your routine. Try doing a set of squats or bicep curls every time you put away a stack of clothing.
Protecting Your Body
The bending and stooping that are often a part of folding laundry can wreak havoc on your back. Whether you're exercising while doing laundry or not, focus on keeping your spine straight and always support yourself with one hand when you reach. When you need to bend over, bend your knees rather than bending at the hips and use your legs instead of your back to support the weight of the items you lift.