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A clean house and a toned body: What more could a multi-tasker ask for?

October 28, 2009 |  1:17 pm

Anyone who has cleaned a house -- really cleaned a house -- knows that all that elbow grease can translate into a fairly good calorie burn.

But what if you could combine cleaning with an actual workout, targeting muscle groups and elevating your heart rate?

Cleanmomma Carolyn Barnes has done just that with Clean Momma, an exercise regimen combined with housework chores. That's right, you can firm up your abs while sorting lights and darks, get stronger glutes as you load the dishwasher and tone your quads while wiping the floor. She swears her toned, cut physique is the result of doing just that, not from spending hours on weight machines.

Barnes, a former dancer and mom of two turned entrepreneur from Encino, developed the program out of necessity: "When I had my second child, I wasn't able to go to the gym," she says. Used to exercising, she missed working out. "I started doing a ballet class around my house while I was cleaning up (plies, leg lifts), and that slowly morphed into a more specific workout. ... I started making little rules for myself -- every time I'd bring a sippy cup to the sink, I'd do ten push-ups. Breaking it up throughout the day, I'd do over 200 push-ups."

This routine allowed her to stay fit and have a reasonably clean house, something with which, she says, many mothers struggle (although the workout is suitable for anyone). "We're so maxed out and nobody has time to squeeze all of this into their lives. With this program, you'll get the dishes done and tone things up and you smush it together and you do it."

The program includes push-ups against a sink, squats while putting dishes in the dishwasher, and training inner and outer thigh muscles while cleaning the floor (the last exercise, when done repeatedly, can also elevate the heart rate). Barnes has a video on her site explaining the concept and a new DVD that goes through a house room by room suggesting specific exercises for various tasks. Proper form and the use of core muscles are emphasized. On Barnes' team of experts are a registered dietitian and a chiropractor, the latter with certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Assn. and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

We like that the workout stresses functional training and doesn't require equipment. However, for some, it might take getting used to, since most of us don't do leg lifts while folding laundry. Barnes agrees that it might require mental agility to remember to multi-task: "You have to train your brain to say now is the time to work out," she says. "But once you get the hang of doing it, it's like being on autopilot. And if I do squats while I'm loading the dishwasher, then I don't feel like I didn't get a workout in."

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Kristoffer Luna