Measurement of energy expenditure of daily tasks among mothers of young children
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There is currently some debate about whether the energy expenditure of domestic tasks is sufficient to confer health benefits. The aim of this study was therefore to measure the energy cost of five activities commonly undertaken by mothers of young children. Seven women with at least one child younger than five years of age spent 15 minutes in each of the following activities: sitting quietly, vacuum cleaning, washing windows, walking at moderate pace (approx 5km/hour), walking with a stroller and grocery shopping in a supermarket. Each of the six ‘trials’ was completed on the same day, in random order. A carefully calibrated portable gas analyser was used to measure oxygen uptake during each activity, and data were converted to units of energy expenditure (METS). Vacuum cleaning, washing windows and walking with and without a stroller were found to be ‘moderate intensity activities’ (3 to 6 METs), but supermarket shopping did not reach this criterion. The MET values for these activities were similar to those reported in the Compendium of Physical Activities (Ainsworth et al., 2000). However, the energy expenditures of walking, both with and without a stroller, were higher than those reported in the Compendium. The findings suggest that some of the tasks associated with domestic caring duties are conducted at an intensity which is sufficient to confer some health benefit. Such benefits will only accrue however if the daily duration of these activities is sufficient to meet current guidelines.
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport