Disinfect and Be Fit: Exercising While Cleaning During COVID-19

Disinfect and Be Fit: Exercising While Cleaning During COVID-19

Apr 03 2020

Between spending more time at home and the need to keep our living spaces clean during COVID-19, here are some ideas to turn cleaning time into an effective (and fun) workout.

By: Angie Horjus, NBC-HWC

Most public establishments are closed for our safety, including our exercise facilities. For those of us who rely on the gym or a health club for our physical fitness each week, these closures can be a little disappointing.

On the bright side: there’s no time like the present to become an in-home fitness enthusiast! But if video workouts aren’t inspiring you, here are some ideas for a creative workout routine you can accomplish while you also clean and sanitize your home. Pairing daily safety precautions that both kill germs and burn calories might be just the variety you need right now. If you have a human body, a pair of supportive athletic shoes, good music and a great cleaning plan, you have everything you need to make this happen.

Follow CDC guidelines
It’s important to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, clean them: use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Follow the CDC’s complete guidelines here.

Use your exercise imagination
Assess your home for fitness opportunities—they’re all around you. Look for gym “equipment” you already have in place. If have some walls, a stairway, a bathtub, a toilet or two, and you do laundry, then you have a perfect place for a workout.. Do you have a good pair of tennis shoes or cross trainers? What about music? Do you have a stereo system or a Spotify account?  Did you know that Pandora has Priority Health Radio? Listen here for all the inspiration you need to get your body moving. Ready to work out? Let’s get started!

Laundry warmups
Just like at the gym, it’s important to prepare your body for exercise with a 10 to 12-minute warm up. Doing laundry is actually the perfect warmup—plus doing the laundry is one chore that is simply non-negotiable. And if you need to go up and down stairs for it, it’s cardio!

  • Use multiple baskets. Gather the laundry as usual, but a bit quicker as you load your baskets—but not too full. I know, for example, that my laundry day usually involves two baskets. When it comes to getting the basket downstairs, I like to think of the fitness benefits of multiple trips up and down the stairs. Think thoughts of “the more flights the merrier” or if you only have one basket, perhaps load your baskets only halfway for more trips down and back up.
  • Add jumping jacks. Load your basket and do five jumping jacks (after setting down your basket, of course). Pick up the basket and take it to your laundry area. Set it down and do five more jumping jacks. Load up the washer, then gather more laundry. Do five more jumping jacks after you fill the next basket, then repeat as many times as you have laundry baskets.
  • Add some more reps and use your stairs. Once your laundry is in the wash and your hands are free, do some more rounds of stairs (if you have them) and jumping jacks. Go up the stairs, do five jumping jacks, go down the stairs, do five more. Remember to go at a pace that is safe and healthy for your current fitness level. Stair climbing by nature will raise your heartrate because you’re pushing your bodyweight upward against gravity, so adding speed should be a decision made based on your current health and your intention to increase cardiovascular endurance, as well as listening to your body.
    • Stair Climbing Tip: Remember to practice good posture in stair climbing as you would any other exercise. Draw your middle in, or “shrink wrap your waist.” Stand just a little taller than you are and take nice deep, full breaths as you move. Lean slightly into the climb, activate or contract your glutes to start the move and concentrate on using your whole leg each step instead of just your calves. Practice now and then going slowly and pressing energy up through your heel instead of always climbing with the ball of your foot.

Cleaning workout
Once you’ve warmed up and have your laundry going, it’s time to start your cleaning workout. Here are the moves:

  1. Plie’ squat while disinfecting toilets. Adele Trimble of Poppy Clean Home Cleaning Service runs her own business and uses her job to stay strong and healthy. “There’s no more bending over from the hips to clean toilets. I use plie’ squats to get low enough so I’m working my leg muscles!” Find your perfect posture in a beautiful, wide plie’ position to strengthen your legs. This move targets the inner thigh muscles called adductors. Apply your disinfecting solution to the toilet bowl, get as low as you can in your plie’ squat position, squeeze your glutes as you practice a few repetitions all the way up and down. This is your full range of motion, or ROM. Next, get low and stay low to clean and disinfect. Try a few pulses with your legs moving you halfway up your full ROM and all the way back down. Work the bottom-half of your full range for eight to 12 repetitions.
  2. Upper body resistance training while scrubbing the tub. While standing to spray your cleaning solution into the bathtub, mindfully activate your glutes, lock in your middle and kneel. As you get into a kneeling position, push a rug or towel under your knees for comfort, place gloved hands on the edge of the tub, and do a set of 10 kneeling pushups. Next, work your scrub brush around the base of the bathtub or shower with a bit more emphasis on drawing your navel in toward your spine and keeping your glutes “switched on” as you lean and reach out. This isometric move will protect your low back. Rinse the tub, stretch a moment, and give yourself another set of 10 pushups that are either from your knees or from your toes against the edge of the tub.
  3. Squats and lunges while cleaning the floor. This is an amazing leg workout for inner thighs, quadriceps and hamstrings. Instead of putting gliding discs under your feet like you might during a fitness class, put a hand-sized cleaning cloth under each foot (with shoes on) and glide your way to strong legs and a shiny, clean floor! Do gliding squats across the entire kitchen or bathroom floor in one direction, then squirt your disinfecting liquid and glide the other way. Repeat.
  4. Wipe down countertop surfaces with a twist. Whew! You’re on the home  stretch and the laundry is almost ready to be switched over. While you’re at countertop height, take advantage of some nice plank holds or planks with a twist for each side. Lift one leg for a single leg plank hold to engage more of your core.
  5. Cool down. Don’t skip your cooldown! Put your laundry in the dryer and fold when ready, sitting down in the butterfly position to stretch your legs, stretch your arms and take deep breaths as you cool down.

An example of an in-home exercise routine with cleaning & disinfecting perks can be found here.

Bonus moves to add more to your workout:


Instead of your usual gym equipment, use your own bottom step of the staircase at home.

  • Step ups / Step knee lift, walk down, repeat.
  • Jump ups
  • Incline push ups
  • Decline push ups
  • Seated tricep dips
  • Staggered squats / add a leg lift / arms out to the sides
  • Lunges off the step / to a knee lift


  • Wall sits: Hold for 20 seconds / 30 seconds / up to 60 seconds
  • Time your wall sits with bicep curls instead of the clock. Hold your pose against the wall and lift and lower your hand weights (or gallons of milk or water) 10 times, then stand and shake the tension away.
  • Wall push ups
  • Wall squats

During this stressful time, staying active will help keep you mentally fit, too. In fact, many studies have shown a positive link between exercise and reduced rates of depression. Get everyone in your house involved in a quick workout if you’re feeling moods dip. Here are more ideas for home workouts. And for the kids? Try gonoodle.com for movement and mindfulness for free. Remember that if you’re moving, you’re winning, even while stuck at home.

About the Author: Angela Horjus, NBC-HWC is among the first National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches at Priority Health, and in the U.S. She approaches her clients and all people with curiosity, respect and a spirit of fun. Angela’s passion for helping others become the best versions of themselves has inspired her current work as a health and wellness coach and throughout her past ventures. Her fitness career of 20 years, including but not limited to group fitness and personal training, cultivated the inspiration to write articles promoting self-improvement and personal growth. Angela’s continuing education is with nationally recognized institutions in health, fitness and wellness specialties. She also has a bachelor’s degree in English from Grand Valley State University. Angela is currently working on her American College of Lifestyle Medicine certification.

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