"You might not relish the idea of doing household chores, but new research claims that dusting, vacuuming and mopping with gusto are as good for you as any session at the gym.
So if you don't have time to pump weights at the gym or attend Pilates classes, then substitute them with everyday household tasks or jobs in the garden.
They will stretch and tone your muscles, and you'll burn up to 315 calories an hour - that's more than twice as many as you would sitting in front of the television.
Sounds unbelievable? We put it to the test. The results are a scientific estimate of what a ten-stone person would burn while doing the following activities at a comfortable pace, based on the calories burned in an hour per pound of body weight. If you push yourself very hard at, say, walking, add more calories.
And it should be remembered that since housework isn't a good form of cardiovascular exercise, you will still need to work your heart and lungs with walking, swimming or cycling.
30 minutes of digging, or 45 minutes of cycling on flat ground
Digging uses the thigh and calf muscles; it is also a good form of cardiovascular exercise if you can keep it up continuously for ten minutes or more.
30 minutes of climbing stairs, or 19.5 minutes of skipping
Climbing stairs is a great cardiopovascular activity. Do it several times a day and you are looking at a work-out equivalent to one you would get on the stepper at the gym.
30 minutes of raking leaves, or 37 minutes of ice-skating
Because you are pulling against a resistance (i.e. wet leaves), raking is a form of weight-training. It works all the major muscles in the legs and upper body.
30 minutes of scrubbing the bath, or 45 minutes of ballroom dancing
Getting rid of tide marks on the bath is not the most pleasant of household tasks, but it really works your bicep and tricep muscles in the arms. Particularly stubborn stains will guarantee you work up a sweat.
30 minutes of carrying shopping bags home, or 40 minutes of golf
Try to make sure you have evenly-weighted bags in each hand - or swop on the way home. Every now and then, rest the bags on the floor and then bend your knees before lifting them again. This simulates free weights at the gym.
30 minutes of painting and decorating, or 25 minutes of walking
Climbing up and down the step-ladder to reach nooks and crannies adds to the calories burned when you decorate. Wallpapering is an energetic activity too - applying paste and reaching up to put the paper on the walls works the upper body.
30 minutes of washing the car, or 32 minutes of yoga
It might take longer than whizzing your motor through the car wash at the local garage, but the advantages are that you will work you arms and abdominal muscles as you reach to clean the roof and other awkward places.
30 minutes of making beds, or 12 minutes of jogging on the treadmill
Although sheets and blankets tend to make for harder work, even shaking out a few continental quilts and puffing up pillows will add to your energy expenditure.
30 minutes of cleaning windows, or 21 minutes of power yoga
Obviously, the size and position of your windows has a big part to play in determining quite how effective this workout will be. If you are using a bucket, don't put it on the floor next to you, but leave it a slight distance away so that you have to reach to get it every time you need water.
30 minutes of weeding, or 13 minutes of weight training
All the bending down to pick out weeds from the garden means that you are working your thighs and buttock muscles. Try to make sure you don't bend from the waist down, as it can strain your lower back.
30 minutes of shelving groceries, or 18 minutes of badminton
Tins of food can be replacement weights for a home workout, so understandably this chore will be taxing if you have shopped for heavy items.
30 minutes of loading the dishwasher, or 30 minutes of light stretching
OK, so putting your dirty dishes in a machine rather than washing them by hand is the easy way out, but believe it or not, the bending and reaching action will help you fight off the flab.
30 minutes of vacuuming, or 15 minutes of kick-boxing
Vacuuming works your arms because of the pushing and pulling it entails. Do the entire house in one go rather than one room at a time - it will mean that you work up a real sweat.
30 minutes of preparing the dinner, or nine minutes of tennis
30 minutes of ironing, or 11 minutes of step aerobics
Think of ironing as weight-training for the upper body. Make sure that you stand up straight and work your arm muscles hard as you press down. And remember to change hands regularly, so that you don't end up with one arm more muscular than the other.
30 minutes of dusting, or 10 minutes of salsa dancing
It may be less taxing than a lot of chores, but if you have a lot of high shelves or trinkets to be moved, then the calories burned will mount up. Much of the benefit is in the stretching actions as you reach out with your duster. "