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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Housework 'kept women fit'
If you want to shed some pounds, forget the gym and the diet, and take up housework instead.

Research shows that 50 years ago, women burned up three times as many calories, as their modern counterparts.

This is because all that washing, ironing, and walking to the shops were extremely effective ways of losing weight.

We are not saying that we should go back to the mangle, but it may be that all our labour-saving devices have got a bit out of control
Ruth Tierney
A survey by Prima magazine found that women of the 1950s would spend three hours a day doing household chores - and would walk an hour a day to the shops and back.

They also ate healthy meals with big helpings of vegetables.

In contrast, not only are modern women able to rely on technology to take much of the elbow grease out of housework, they are also much more likely to eat an unhealthy diet of convienience and junk food.

Women today eat on average 2,178 calories a day - and can expect their lifestyle to burn off 556.

In 1952, however, the average woman ate 1,818 calories a day - and burned off 1,512.

Modern woman is much more likely to work out at the gym, or to take up faddy diets - both of which were almost unheard of in mid-20th century Britain.

But this is leading seven out of 10 to the spurious conclusion that they take better care of themselves than women of previous generations.

In fact, levels of obesity and heart disease have soared over the last 50 years.

Today 32% of women in Britain are overweight, and 21% are obese.

Prima editor Marie Fahey said: "It is telling that modern technology has made us two-thirds less active than we were.

"It goes to show the importance of exercise in the battle to maintain a healthy balance."

Ruth Tierney, who wrote the report, said: "We are not saying that we should go back to the mangle, but it may be that all our labour-saving devices have got a bit out of control."

The BBC's Gill Higgins
"Getting down to scrub the floor can really burn up the calories"

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