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Spring cleaning gets your house -- and body -- in shape

Here's the good news: Spring has arrived. That means many people will be spending lots of time outdoors, getting lawns and gardens ready for Western New York's good-weather season, and inside -- doing that exhausting, attic-to-cellar spring cleaning.

Which brings us to the even better news: Cleaning and yard work can count as a workout, especially at this time of year.

All that bending, stretching, lifting and carrying that vigorous housecleaning or yard work demands simulates a thorough round of more traditional exercise, local experts said.

That means you can do your spring cleaning and then check "go to gym" off your to-do list, according to Dr. Richard Vienne, regional medical director for Univera Healthcare.

"I say to my patients often, motion is lotion for the body," Vienne said. "Get up, get moving. It doesn't matter what it is. You don't have to be the runner who runs eight miles a day. There is this misconception that exercise has to be this marathon running, it has to be gym-based.

"But we spend energy doing our laundry, we spend energy shoveling snow, cleaning our yards."

Besides burning calories and serving as a good cardio workout, cleaning and yard work can reduce stress and boost our overall health by making our homes and environments cleaner and more inviting places.

Lisa Drzyzga, a health and wellness consultant in the region for 16 years, said that she is enjoying the health benefits of a kitchen remodeling project this spring.

"Right now, I'm in the middle of the remodel, and I'm scraping wallpaper, things like that," said Drzyzga, who works as a consultant with Univera. "I'm counting all that in [as exercise]."

For added motivation, Drzyzga recommends, find a tracker -- online or elsewhere, whatever works for you -- that lets you see the caloric burn or pedometer count of daily activities you are engaged in at this time of year.

For example, to meet the health goal of 10,000 steps a day suggested by the medical community -- something most Americans fall far short of -- it helps to know the daily home and garden activities can add up fast, helping one achieve that number.

Consider that:

*Vacuuming for 15 minutes equals 1,515 steps toward the day's total;

*Gardening at a moderate level for 30 minutes equals 3,480 steps; heavy gardening work for the same time equals 5,220 steps;

*Half an hour of raking equals 3,750 steps;

*Painting or wallpapering for one hour equals 4,080 steps.

One example of a source for adding up daily activity tallies and getting feedback on nutrition and fitness goals is Univera's "Active Rewards" program, which pays members back with "dividends" for taking steps toward a healthy lifestyle. The dividends are dollars that can be accumulated and then "cashed out" in the form of gift cards or other bonuses, Univera executives said.

The program, which may be toured for free by nonenrollees at the company's Web site, includes pages on the exercise quotient of daily tasks and activities, and can help users build individual fitness plans.

"Just with regular household activities," said Drzyzga, "you can do a lot."


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