Housekeeping found tougher than office work

Posted May 17, 2012, at 9:55 p.m.

TOKYO — The job of a homemaker is 20 percent more physically demanding than that of a clerical worker, according to a survey by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition and J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo.

Their research results are to be published in an academic journal of the Japanese Society of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine.

Homemakers’ greater level of physical activity is attributed to daily chores such as cleaning and washing. The physical exertion of homemakers who are rearing children is even stronger.

Shigeho Tanaka, head of the institute’s nutritional science department, and others developed wearable instruments for the study in cooperation with a maker of mechanical devices. The instruments measure the amount and intensity of activity by sensitively registering physical movements such as up and down or left and right.

The research team asked 20 female full-time homemakers, whose average age was 37, and 31 male and female clerical workers, whose average age was 42, to wear the instruments for a week and measured their average amount of activity.

There was little difference in the average number of steps walked daily by the two groups, with homemakers taking 8,424 and office workers taking 8,288.

However, activity intensity was considerably different between the two groups. If the level of intensity while sitting at rest is set at 1.0, homemakers spent more time than office workers at level 3.0 or higher.

Excluding walking time, homemakers spent an average of 59.5 minutes a day at this level while clerical workers spent 21.9 minutes, about two-thirds less.

Homemakers also spent more time between levels 2.0 and 3.0. Again excluding walking time, homemakers spent 243.4 minutes in this intensity range, or 99.5 minutes longer than clerical workers.

Activity intensity when working while sitting in a chair or attending a conference is 1.1 to 1.8, washing dishes is 1.8, hanging laundry out to dry is 2.3, and vacuuming is 3.0.

As homemakers are engaged in relatively strenuous activity for long hours, the daily number of calories they burned was equivalent to 70 percent of their daily basal metabolic rate, compared with clerical workers for whom the figure was 57 percent.

©2012 The Yomiuri Shimbun (Tokyo)

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