A very wise 10-year-old told me last week that vacuuming made you just as fit as swimming, so imagine how much more buff I would be if I took the broom to the floor instead.
I’m sure it was his attempt of getting out of helping to clean up the surf club hall after a two-day swimming camp, and his own knowledge that the parents who get in the pool each morning with their kids at training do it more so we can indulge in those little extra gastronomic pleasures than for any aspirations of athletic prowess.
But his insight into our ulterior motives for pushing our ageing bodies to the limit got me thinking about just how many of those everyday chores many of us have given away because we can’t fit them into our busy lives, including time in the gym, pounding the pavement or following the black line at the bottom of the pool, were responsible for keeping our grandmothers, and mothers in better shape than today’s women.
When I look at pictures of my mother and my Nan when they were around the same age as I am now, there were no muffin tops, no saddlebags and no back boobs peeping from the too-tight bra.
I admit there were housemaid’s knees, and hands that were less than silky smooth, but their bodies, and their energy were in much better condition than mine and this was all before gyms were even invented.
In times when vacuum cleaners were huge, clumsy and energy inefficient, the broom did the job, keeping those upper arms toned and slim, while bending down and stretching in the downward dog pose to hand wash the kitchen and bathroom floors was better than an hour in the pilates studio or a session of Bikram yoga.
Nan had to do the washing in an old copper, which does wonders for the waist, so I’m told, giving her a figure that even the Ab Circle Pro can not guarantee.
A pleasant evening stroll with the family made sure the thighs and calves kept their shape and all without breaking a bead of sweat of which a lady tried to avoid at all costs in mixed company.
Exercise was part and parcel of everyday existence, and paying someone to berate you to do one more push up was a notion that would have sent you to the doctor for a psychological check-up.
I wonder what the past generations would then make of the new trend sweeping Sydney – and the world – of doggie gyms.
One such establishment in Sydney is doing a roaring trade with clients paying up to $60 an hour for someone to stand by a treadmill, holding a lead while their pooch gets his exercise.
Apparently we are now so time poor that a 30-minute stroll after work with man’s best friend has been outsourced to someone with a better business brain than I could ever hope for.
Forget the fact that bonding with the hound after a hard day in the office is more beneficial for the mind than the body, users of this service say it’s a relief not to have to worry about taking Fido out to the park for a little R&R and instead they can now flop down in front of the TV with a glass of wine without the guilt and an exhausted pup asleep at their feet.
With everything vintage making a resurgence perhaps there’s a market for a retro-gym and fitness service where clients sweep the floors, hang out the washing, and walk the dog all to the booming voice of an ageing housewife who can get them into tip-top shape while they complete their domestic chores, just like the old days.