When I first read that headline I did a little silent cheer of delight. Not about the weight gain part of course, but about the women and less housework part. I don’t really consider myself a feminist, but I guess a little part of me wants to fight for progress in women’s equality. Equality in the home, that is. As much progress as women have made in the workplace and society in general, for some reason, the women still seem to get stuck with a majority of the household chores: laundry, cooking, cleaning, and in most families, childcare. There are obviously exceptions, but as much as I would like to think more men are stepping up to the plate at home, I don’t think it can quite be called the norm just yet.
I was excited at first glance because I thought this study was going to reveal that women were taking on less of the brunt of the housework because more of them were working or husbands were pitching in, but I was wrong. Instead, women are just plain doing less housework. (The study failed to mention how dirty the average home is nowadays.) What the study did show is that women are now spending about 13.3 hours per week doing housework. In 1965, women spent an average of 25.7 hours cleaning. (Might I point out that’s nearly a part time job in itself?)
So what does this drop in the number of hours spent on housework have to do with weight? Well, that housework used to involve pushing heavy vacuums, dusting, mopping, and scrubbing. In other words, it was physical labor that burned calories. Women are still vacuuming and scrubbing, but they’ve replaced more than 12 of those weekly hours with probably the worst alternative there is: screen time. Time spent in front of a computer screen or television nearly doubled in the last 40 or so years, from 8.3 hours per week to 16.5 hours per week. (So yes, we spend more time watching TV than we do cleaning. No wonder we’re always behind on the housework.)
It may not sound like much, but those added sedentary hours equate to a difference of 2,518 calories per week. That’s 360 calories a day, more than the equivalent of a venti whole milk frappuccino. The study also showed that women in 2010 are an average of 22 pounds heavier than those in 1965. Makes sense when you account for all those extra calories that aren’t being burned by household obligations.
Apparently us women need to get back to the heavy-duty cleaning of our 1960’s counterparts if we want to play our part in fighting this obesity epidemic. Just kidding. But we should keep in mind how much time we’re spending in front of the screen and being otherwise sedentary. This is a good reminder of how the little, every day things can add up to make a big difference.