The classic pictures of the 1950s show elegant women with slender waste lines and demur features. Yet a quick internet search yields very few results that explain how women over half a century ago stayed so slim. Women of the 1950's did not have Pilates, spinning classes or a fitness club on every corner. However, a careful look at the average housewife's lifestyle may reveal their secret.
Women in the 1950s did not have floor steamers or robotic vacuum cleaners. Most did not own an automatic dishwasher and thus spent their evenings washing dishes by hand. And, although many had electric washing machines, their clothes were hung and dried on the line. The typical vacuum cleaner at that time weighed around 25 pounds, compared to today's upright that comes in around half that weight. Of course, three meals a day were also prepared at home, because dining out was a luxury reserved for special occasions. Housework in the 1950's really was a chore. The average housewife spent about three hours per day cleaning. That is a lot of calories burned.
It was rare for families during the 1950s to own more than one car. Also, the average household refrigerator was a fraction of the size of modern refrigerators and often did not have the added luxury of a freezer. So, in addition to her daily household duties, the 1950s woman walked to and from the market each day for fresh food. The supermarkets of today did not exist. Mother walked from the butcher's store to the bakery and to the grocer to pick up her produce, milk and eggs. Women in the 1950s walked more than an hour each day on a regular basis.
The amount and intensity of housework was not the only difference between then and now. The typical 1950s woman did not have a job outside the home and was a stay-at-home mom. These moms spent a good part of their day entertaining and taking care of children. Most American homes at the time did not have a television. Video games and computers did not exist. Keeping children busy meant playing ball, jumping rope, playing dress-up, taking walks to the park and playing games like hide-and-seek. So, playtime was just another activity that helped women of the fifties keep their youthful figures.
What does this mean for women of today? There is a lot that can be learned from the 1950s lifestyle. While the 1950s woman burned an extra 1,000 calories per day doing chores, the modern woman might manage to burn an extra 550 by working out at the gym and doing other routine activities. Though we may not have three extra hours each day to clean like a fifties housewife -- nor would we necessarily want to if we did -- we can incorporate more activity into our daily lives, whether while at work, out running errands or at home. Start by making small changes. Park farther away from the store or office. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk or bike to work if possible. Make regular playtime a part of your daily routine. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy doing and could even enjoy doing with friends or family on a regular basis.