If you are feeling in the mood for a big clean, then using that time to get some body conditioning in as well makes a lot of sense. Pilates is still the fitness craze of the moment, and although not aerobic, it combines body mechanics, balance, co-ordination, strength and flexibility in its approach to resculpting the body. Why not put Pilates into your cleaning schedule and get toned while you scrub?
Abs the Pilates way
"When bending, reaching or lifting anything, your stomach muscles should be engaged," says Pilates instructor Mike Perry. "Draw your belly button in, so it feels like you are wearing a belt and it's in a couple of notches. This will help your core stability, vital if you are to maintain good posture."
"You should also think of lifting your pelvic floor muscles," says Debbie Lawrence, fitness guru and author of The Complete Guide to Exercising Away Stress (A C Black). "Feel inside your pelvic bones and cough - the muscle you feel that contracts is the transverses (when this muscle group engages, the pelvic floor muscles will also engage), which is the one you need to contract in order to help your pelvic floor."
So tackling the vacuuming while having a tight core will help your posture and your fitness. "Core stability is essential if you are to protect your back," says Debbie. "Keeping everything tight and taut will make the movement much easier."
"When stretching up to clean the windows, or take down the curtains, keep your shoulders away from your ears - try to imagine your armpits are moving towards your waist," says Michael Perry. "As you reach up high, try lifting out of your waist; drawing your belly button in and lifting the bottom of your ribcage away from your hip to reach higher. As you look up, keep your neck long and lift your breastbone to bring your head back."
When cleaning the floor and using a mop or broom, remember to bend the knees, and keep them soft, not locked, so your lower back will release.
"When you are on all fours, about to clean the floor, try this awareness exercise - it's called abdominal hollowing, and it will help work the muscles that help to control the spine," says Debbie Lawrence.
Place your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Find a neutral pelvis position - first, hollow the back; second, round the lower back and then find a position between the two that is comfortable.
Repeat this a few times, and then find a mid point between the two movements - this is neutral spine. Hold it.
Finish your cleaning sessions with a good stretch (relax!), making sure you don't overdo things. Lying flat on the floor with your head supported by a book and your knees pointing up towards the ceiling and focus on your breathing. As you breathe in feel the lower rib cage expand outwards in the side and to the floor, and as you breathe out feel the lower rib cage relax. Use this time to help your recover. And you never know, your cleaning regime might be the start of a newer body awareness regime!