Are the fit tidier?

Many pack rats are overweight

The Kobal Collection

Anyone who’s watched Hoarders, the reality TV show about compulsive pack rats, may have noticed a pattern: many are overweight. New research reveals a link between a well-kept house and physical activity levels. The tidier a home, the fitter the homeowner.

The study, which is under review, examined the relationship between physical activity levels and the condition of participants’ homes and streets. The researchers asked 998 African-Americans aged 49 to 65 of “higher socio-economic status” living in two St. Louis neighbourhoods how often they walked or performed other activities. They examined factors such as traffic and the presence of sidewalks.

Finally, the researchers and participants each evaluated the state of the home, including neatness. “We were looking at the walls, ceilings, the furniture,” explains NiCole Keith, a professor of physical education at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. “Was there a crack in the paint? Were the carpets ripped up or pretty nice?”

The result: the dominant factor that correlated to the level of exercise was whether or not a person’s house was in good shape—not, for example, whether the area was conducive to jogging. “If somebody had a positive rating of the home,” explains Keith, “then they were more likely to be physically active.” She was “completely surprised” by the findings. Usually the emphasis is on getting people out of the house and to the gym. This data suggests that there may be plenty of exercise to be done inside—like housework. Next, researchers need to find out if it’s a personality trait that makes the same people who keep a clean house more likely to be physically active, or if there’s another explanation.

No matter, Keith applauds initiatives that turn chores into workouts, such as those featured at, including “dish lifts” (stand on your tiptoes while unloading the dishwasher) and “laundry legs” (lunge from hamper to washing machine). Says Keith: “Every step counts.”

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