Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Elul 5759 - August 25, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
A Jewish Housewife's Aerobics Program
by M. Steinberg

[We present this program as a Pesach service - if you begin now and follow up studiously, in six months time you will not HAVE to do the window shades, bathroom tiles, doors, closet doors, cobwebs on high places, and all those things you are annually told do NOT constitute Pesach cleaning. Read on.]

Debra Waterhouse, an American health professional, describes aerobic exercise as any activity that raises your heart rate. She claims you need to do this for one hour, four times a week. She says, "Aerobic exercise removes the fat from your fat cells and releases it into your bloodstream, where it is transported to your muscles and burned." Further, she suggests that you swim, bike, jog or walk, starting with ten or fifteen minutes at a time, and work your way up to an hour.

Let's try to translate this into our hectic, Shabbos and Yomtov oriented lifestyle. Some of us find time to walk a bit in the evening and some even manage a regular swimming schedule. I know that I don't. But if aerobics can be any activity that increases the heart rate and burns up fat, why can't I put on some energetic music and scrub, lift, shake and vacuum my way through an activity and get the same benefits? [One of the first ground rules should be to take the phone off the hook, so as to work up uninterruptedly to a fast pace. The second, not to slack off in energy.] I organized my personal program by referring to my Pesach cleaning house map. This is a layout of my apartment on a large piece of graph paper. It doesn't have to be perfectly accurate since we are not trying to be architects or builders. We are trying to build a healthier person and the architectural looking plan only serves to have a place to write down all the things in each room that need to be cleaned, polished, straightened up and sorted through. You must write down every detail. That means that you sit in the room with this graph paper (let's start with a master bedroom) and write: light fixture -- dust, window glass -- polish, linens -- change, outside doors of closet -- spray and wipe, and so on until every item is listed and its cleaning chore defined.

After all the rooms have been catalogued, the next job is to estimate the smallest time increment for each task. Windows might be five minutes and closet doors fifteen. Eliminate sorting and other sedentary jobs from your aerobics program. After all, whom are you kidding? The object is to strain yourself a little at a time and work up to an hour of fast-paced, hard labor four times a week, just like in a professional gymnasium. Think how much a hard working housemaid could accomplish in that amount of time. And at what price?

You may allow yourself hours (minutes) of points for the floor-wash and the linen-change that you've been doing all along. That should give you a good start in the program right away. You see, you've already begun!

As you reach and stretch to clean the outside of the top kitchen cabinets, concentrate on pulling in the stomach muscles that got stretched out like old rubber bands from years ago. I once paid membership in a health club for the use of an exercise machine that was designed to stretch me this way and that while lying on a comfortable leather bed. It was luxurious, and effective, and expensive. I lost about five millimeters at waist level in a short time, only to gain it promptly back shortly after I left the program. The housecleaning aerobics is cost-free, even cost-saving, and you never have to quit once you get into the habit of cleaning in small increments on a regular schedule. And working quickly, you will see how much more you can get done. You can even work on increasing the pace as you progress.

If you are a very organized person, you may want to arrange your map into a more rigid form, listing when to do each chore and how often. I, myself, just look around the house and at the chart and decide what I'm in the mood to tackle. One day, I might resolve to attack a small tiled area in the bathroom with my personal concoction of Fantastic, citric acid and water and an old toothbrush. Cleaning the tiles and the grout in between can be a fifteen minute workout. A larger area as time goes by can be a good hour's labor.

Another small exercise can be to clean one door to a room on the outside, including the molding around it. Scrub energetically with scotch-brite and liquid cleaner, wipe with a damp rag and dry with an old towel. Don't miss the tops of the door and over the molding, and, of course, shine up the handle. Do only one door at a time. If you do one a week, your house will look sparkling all year round.

Every other week, I clean either the upper or the lower kitchen cabinets on the outside and inside doors. The inner cabinets are a separate chore and should be done one at a time. Getting on and off the chair with dishes and cans has to be as good exercise as the stair machine in the health club and you can buy yourself a present with the money you've saved.

When I want to extend my aerobics program to the outside, I pick a destination that's difficult, but not impossible. I can walk to my daughter's apartment and up the stairs to the top floor in about fifteen minutes. That really gets the heart rate moving and I think about all the fat burning as I drop into the nearest chair. Sometimes, I make a conscious decision to walk the twenty minutes to the supermarket for milk and bread, instead of going into the grocery by the house. After cooling off in the store and window shopping for relaxation, I carry the small purchase home. It would be a mistake to try to shlep botles of soda or anything heavy. The program will fail if you overdo before your system is ready.

My Jewish Housewife's Aerobics Program should accomplish two very important goals. One is a better, healthier, trimmer `you', and the other is an efficiently run, sparkling clean home for your family.


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