By JAMES R. HAGERTY
CRESCENT SPRINGS, Ky.—If house cleaning were an Olympic sport, Stevie Markovich would be in the running for a medal.
Without resorting to gym fees or spandex, the 57-year-old Mr. Markovich has kept himself fit for the past 16 years by using the "aerobic house cleaning" exercises he devised.
He does squats while washing windows. He performs lunges and hip twists while using the vacuum cleaner, "the most versatile exercise machine" he knows. He burns so many calories that he can forgive himself for occasional indulgences, such as vanilla ice cream slathered with peanut butter.
Turning housework into a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing frenzy could help cure America's plague of obesity, Mr. Markovich believes. He also hopes to make a little money from it someday.
After doing the splits on his beige family-room carpeting, Mr. Markovich exults: "57 years old! Come on now. There's something working!"
But now he has a younger rival. Taking a short break from his exertions, Mr. Markovich opens his iPad and gazes at the website of Carolyn Barnes, 40, who calls herself Clean Momma. Her slogan: "Get lean while you clean." Ms. Barnes, who lives near Los Angeles, discovered her signature exercise, the Rag Drag, while wiping her infant son's vomit off the kitchen floor.
"My brain went, 'Woo! I'm onto something,'" she says of that epiphany. Now she has a $19.95 DVD out and is working on a book.
"Boy," Mr. Markovich says softly, "she's got a good body." Though in excellent shape for his age, Mr. Markovich has a modest paunch. His challenger has another edge: "She's got a much better site, slicker than I have," Mr. Markovich says. "She's going to make some money off hers. She's going to make a mint—and good for her."
Mr. Markovich, who grew up near Chicago, studied kick boxing and other martial arts in his teens and twenties. After the first of his two daughters was born in 1995, he found little time for exercise. One day, while racing around to pick up toys, he had a revelation: "Hey, I'm sweating."
He began developing his routines. With one hand, he hoists his sofa off the floor while vacuuming underneath with the other. He kicks high enough to close a kitchen cabinet with his toes. He puts on steel-toed boots and a backpack loaded with books while mowing the lawn to make it a sweatier chore.
"I look ridiculous," he says.
When he was laid off from an advertising-sales job in 2002, Mr. Markovich produced a video of his routines and tried selling copies from his website for $20. Sales were meager, even after he appeared on a cable-TV show called "Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean." He eventually went back to less-glamorous work, including a stint as an airport baggage handler. "It was a brutal physical job," Mr. Markovich says. He loved it. But he felt that some of his co-workers were cheating themselves by tipping suitcases onto the conveyor belts rather than hoisting them off the floor.
His latest job, a clerical position at a call center, provides little physical stimulus. In his free time at home, though, he still cleans frantically and performs dips with one hand on the kitchen countertop, the other on the island.
He has written a 176-page unpublished book extolling exercise and a healthy diet. It isn't entirely a feel-good tome. Sample chapter title: "There Are No Excuses." Sample photo: A foot with amputated toes as a warning against the risks of diabetes.
Carol Torgan, a physiologist in Bethesda, Md., likes the idea of transforming daily drudgery into exercise. She suggests "doing toe raises to strengthen the calves while vacuuming, washing dishes or brushing your teeth." Still, she warns that the overzealous could hobble themselves with such ailments as knee bursitis—also known as housemaid's knee—or suffer from "increased inhalation of chemical fumes from cleaning agents."
Searching the Internet for fitness regimes, Kathleen Burke of northern Illinois found Mr. Markovich's site a couple of years ago and bought a DVD from him. She liked his ideas but says she has since "dropped the ball" and doesn't use them much. She also fretted she would wear out the legs of her sofa if she used it as a weight machine.
Mr. Markovich's wife, Charlotte, gets her exercise at the gym. She occasionally hires a professional cleaner when she wants to get the house ready for a holiday. Her husband is "good at the big stuff," like scrubbing floors, Mrs. Markovich says, "but, like most men, not as good at putting all the little things away."
Mrs. Markovich, who works 70-hour weeks as the marketing and finance chief for a pizza chain, doesn't want to wait for her husband to finish the entire house, a process that can be interrupted by extraneous kicks and sofa-lifts. He counters that it is insane to hire a cleaner for chores he thinks he can do better.
Another point of contention is whether aerobic house cleaning will ever reap any financial rewards—a question that came up one recent evening at Pee Wee's, a neighborhood bar and grill where Mr. Markovich likes the wings doused in Frank's RedHot sauce.
"I always thought it was cute," Mrs. Markovich says of the aerobic cleaning, "and it kept him in shape. But I was always hesitant about bringing it to the next level," profitability. "We've spent an awful lot of time over an awful lot of years working on that website without getting much out of it," she says.
Mr. Markovich stabs a french fry into a pool of hot sauce. "I still like doing it," he says, "and if I can help people, fine."
He thinks there still might be ways to make money from his program. He might try to endorse cleaning products. Or, he says, he could team up with Ms. Barnes and create a reality television show called "Mr. and Mrs. Clean."
Mrs. Markovich has a one-word reaction to that notion: "Hah."
But Ms. Barnes, reached later by telephone, doesn't rule it out. "That's hysterical," she says. After a pause, she adds: "I always say I'm open to anything."
Write to James R. Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org