DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How does housework stack up as exercise? I am 59 and do all my housework and lawn work. I think I get plenty of exercise. Do I need an exercise program? – B.P.

ANSWER: Housework stacks up well as exercise. All physical labor does.

Aerobic exercise is the kind of exercise that benefits the heart and arteries. The basic requirement of aerobics is to get large muscles moving continuously and to raise the heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for at least 10 minutes. So you have to do housework with pep. You can’t slowly shuffle from task to task. You have to keep the pace relatively brisk.

In addition to aerobic exercise, everyone should engage in resistance exercise. “Resistance” means lifting, pushing or pulling somewhat-heavy weights. This is the kind of exercise that builds strong muscles and strong bones. Housework qualifies as resistance exercise.

There are some principles, applicable to both kinds of exercise, which a person must follow. One is the level of exercise should increase constantly. You don’t have to increase by leaps and bounds, but even small increments made slowly keep the body off a plateau. You have to keep challenging it to make gains.

You should also vary your exercises. If you do the same routine, day in and day out, you don’t give the body a well-balanced workout. I have to leave it to your imagination on how to achieve exercise variety.

Here are some examples of the calorie-burning for one hour of various household chores: vacuuming, 192; scrubbing floors, 438; cooking, 192; mopping, 252; moping, very little; general housecleaning, 240; gardening, 300. (I don’t know what general housecleaning means. I am an expert at moping, however.)

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I live in a condo complex that has an outside hot tub. Its temperature ranges from 100 F (37.7 C) to 104 F (40 C). We have a sign that says the tub is for adults only. Every so often, parents bring their small children in with them. They’re breaking the rules of the association, but is there a health issue with children being in water with a temperature of 104? Your opinion and advice would be greatly appreciated. – D.

ANSWER: How small is “small”? Infants haven’t the capacity to regulate body temperature as well as they will when they mature a bit more. They shouldn’t be in a hot tub. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends not letting children younger than 5 into a hot tub.

Can’t your fellow residents read? Why make a law if it’s not enforced?

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I just read the question of the high-school swimmer and your response. It was about holding breath and swimming fast. I agree with your opinion regarding oxygen depletion.

However, I think what the swimmer was talking about is when a coach tells the swimmer not to breathe so much during sprint competition. The idea behind this is when the swimmer turns to breathe, he or she increases drag and slows down arm turnover. Both are detrimental to the time of the race. Keeping the head down at the water line – the swimmer’s hairline – is the best body position for racing. Turning the head to breathe destroys this aerodynamically best position and costs the swimmer precious time. – Coach

ANSWER: Swimmers and I thank you. I had a feeling I was in water over my head.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am hoping you can answer a question for me. There are several exercise facilities for women now. One uses weights on its machines. The other has a hydraulic pulley system. Which equipment is better? I am 56 and trying to prevent osteoporosis. – M.K.

ANSWER: Resistance exercise is the kind of exercise that builds strong muscles and bones. “Resistance” means that an object resists your efforts to move it. The resistance can be barbells, dumbbells, weight machines, hydraulic pulley systems, medicine balls or just about anything that you have to strain to move. One is as good as the other, so long as the person exerts the same amount of force in performing the exercise.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am an active, healthy woman of 76. I recently began to take Ditropan XL at night, and it works well for me. I would like to know what its side effects or dangers are. – S.K.

ANSWER: Ditropan XL (oxybutynin) calms overactive bladder muscles. The “XL” stands for extended release. Overactive bladder muscles are the cause for urge incontinence – one kind of urinary incontinence, the loss of bladder control.

With urge incontinence, bladder wall muscles contract when the bladder is only slightly filled. The contractions are so strong and so persistent that people have to run to the bathroom to avoid losing bladder control. They often do lose control in spite of the mad dash.

Do you know of a single medicine that really works and doesn’t have side effects? Ditropan can slow sweating, so don’t get overheated in hot weather. It makes some people drowsy. It can produce dry mouth, dry eyes and constipation, and it might blur vision. In general, it’s a safe medicine.

Not all people obtain the gratifying results you have obtained. You should be pleased.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from

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