The New (Old) Paleo Diet Exercise: Chores

So, in the Huffington Post an article was published which says that doing chores makes you fit. Is this a surprise? Obviously to some it is. But to Paleo dieters this is old news. In fact its ancient news. Why? Because nearly ALL activity done by our Paleo ancestors would have been in the form of chores. The Paleo diet exercise would have been chores!

I thought it might be fun to do a comparison of chores: ancient and modern. I will not go into calories burned for the Paleo list, but I’m willing to bet that generally more calories would have been burned by our ancestors The list of chores in the Huff Post article are:

  • Walking Up the Stairs With Groceries
    • Skip the elevator — walking up and down the stairs for 10 minutes with your groceries can burn 85 calories for a 150-pound person, according to WebMD.
  • Washing Your Car
  • Cooking
    • Kill two birds with one stone by cooking a healthy dinner — spending an hour doing so will help you burn close to 180 calories.
  • Dusting
    • An hour of dusting blasts more than 150 calories for a 155-pound person — double the satisfaction.
  • Gardening
  • Scrubbing the Floors
  • Vacuuming
    • Pushing a heavy vacuum around the house? You may as well be lifting weights — an hour of dust-busting can torch 238 calories in a 150-pound person.

Below are MY approximations of what the equivalent Paleo chore would be.

Walking up the stairs with groceries - That would probably be equivalent to carrying home the most recent results of the hunt. By reading accounts of more modern hunter gatherer societies, like the native Americans, this chore would have expended a lot of energy. A whole lot more than carry a bag up the stairs!

Washing Your Car - Hmm. Well as we would not have had cars, horses or cows to wash, this one’s tough. I will say the “equivalent” chore, since it is water related,  would be filling up water bags and carrying them back to the cave. In Jean Auel’s very well researched fictional book series, “Earth’s Children” she describes the use of animal stomachs for various purposes. I believe it was an auroch (ancient bovine) stomach that was used for a family size water bag since it is waterproof. Depending upon how far you lived from the water source, it would have been quite a lot of work.

Cooking - Cooking for our ancestors, would have definitely used more energy. While we may think of paleo food being a haunch of meat roasting over a fire, other foods did take more preparation. For example, to heat water, a skin lined inside with a stomach would have had hot rocks from the fire pit placed inside, then removed as they cooled to be replaced with other hot rocks until the water was hot. That is labor intensive. Other foods like nuts or the occasional grains, would have been ground up between two flat rocks. Vegetables, such as nettles would have to have been peeled, with a stone knife. No doubt that paleo cooking would have burned as much calories as it would have provided.

Dusting - I don’t think that dusting was an issue but tidying up one’s living space in the cave might qualify. Calories burned? Probably not that much. Since we have so much extraneous stuff to care for, this modern exercise wins hands down.

Gardening - I will use ‘gathering’ for this comparison since both deal with working with plants and earth. The calories burned on this one might be closer to a tie. If you are weeding your garden, that is rather like using a stick to dig up some nice roots or tubers. Except that the earth in your garden may be a lot softer. But pruning plants can equate to gathering herbs and vegetables. Okay, maybe our ancestors had a slight edge in this one.
Scrubbing the Floors -  Since we had no floors to care about, I will use scraping hides and furs for the comparison. Both scrubbing floors and working hides can be grueling work, but I’d still have to give it to the hide scraper. It would have taken a long time to scrape a hide to remove all connective tissue. And you had to be thorough. Anything left behind would have ultimately damaged the hide. 

Vacuuming - Again, no real comparison, but if you consider the weight of the vacuum cleaner and are taking it up and down stairs then it would be very much like picking up rocks and other heavy objects. Gathering firewood would fall under this category. Hard to say how much heavy lifting our ancestors did. But it would have been more than just getting the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs.

There were a lot of “chores” our ancestors would have done that are not on the list, but I think that the above information shows that we fall far below what was done 20,000 years ago. There really isn’t anything new when it comes to doing chores on the Paleo diet.


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7 Responses to The New (Old) Paleo Diet Exercise: Chores

  1. Rachel July 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I would add to the cooking section: To make cooking even more paleo (and I don’t mean the end product), get rid of all of those cooking machines! Friends are sometimes amazed that I don’t have an electric mixer or can opener. Good ol’ fashioned elbow grease works great, and burns more calories, too! :)

  2. Lila July 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the comment!
    Very true. So I wonder, in the data that was taking regarding cooking burning 150 calories, did they consider if people used modern electrical tools or did everything by hand? Of course some of these electrical tools are invaluable even for us paleo types. My favorite tool is my Ninja blender. It does a great job grinding jerky for pemmican!

  3. Dennis August 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

    And where is the facebook like button ?

    • Lila August 5, 2011 at 11:01 am

      At the bottom of the article.

  4. Joe April 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I’ve been doing the Paleo Diet for about 7 weeks now. So far my weight loss has been pretty good. I’ve often wondered about Paleo Exercise as well. This was an interesting read!

    • Lila Solnick April 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Thanks for visiting Joe. It’s thrilling when you see results. And now you know what you can do around your house that will help you along your journey.
      Thanks for commenting!

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