Household Labor Saving Miracles Might Have a Downside

It turns out that the modern miracle of household labor saving devices has been quite effective. A new study published in PLOS ONE documents almost five decades of declining energy expenditure for housework by U.S. women. At the same time, they found a substantial rise in sedentary time. The investigators concluded that this observation may help explain rising obesity prevalence in women over the last five decades.

This study complements a study published in 2011 by some of the same researchers that documented a similar decline of energy expenditure in the workplace away from home. Together, these studies paint a very clear picture of the effect that labor saving miracles have had on how much we move and burn energy. It’s gone way down.

Women with a job outside of home are burning 132 fewer calories daily on housework, while women without one are burning 360 fewer calories daily. And the prior study showed that job-related activities are burning more than 100 fewer calories daily than they were five decades ago.

None of this means we need to give up conveniences. But, if you’re not up for lots of scrubbing, sweeping, and manual labor, it’s worth thinking about what will keep you moving, happy, and healthy. At home or at work, we’re better off in motion.

Click here to read more in the New York Times, click here to read the study of housework-related energy expenditure, and click here to read the study of occupational energy expenditure.

1930s Vacuum Ad, image © Nilfisk-Advance / Wikimedia

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