There’s something to be said for old-fashioned, outdoor manual labor. It makes you feel accomplished, connects you to nature and comes with the bonus of making you feel fitter.
Try these “work outs” and feel the burn. Put your muscles to good use and tally up the calories you’ll shed from these fall chores.
Mow the lawn
Personally, I am the proud owner/operator of an old-fashioned push mower. Automated equipment adds convenience but cuts out the cardio, muscle stimulation and calorie-burning effects of hard work. If you, like Greg Moses, are the kind of person who custom installs a jumbo cup holder on your riding mower so you can sip on your Big Gulp of Sweet Tea, then you are probably reading the wrong article.
Ditch the riding mower for a traditional push mower for a cardio workout that conditions the legs and core. According to CalorieCount.com, a 150-pound man can burn 408 calories an hour push-mowing the lawn. By the same calculations, the calorie breakdown for a 250-pound man drinking a 96 ounce Mountain Dew while riding a mower equates to gaining 3 pounds – okay, this part I just made up.
Trim the hedges
Gas-powered hedge trimmers are for cheaters. For better fitness, grab a pair of manual trimmers. They stimulate muscles in the forearms and shoulders and, according to FitDay.com, one hour of playing Edward Scissorhands will trim off approximately 235 calories.
Truthfully, the only reason I don’t personally use gas-powered trimmers is because I don’t own some. This is my least favorite outdoor “workout,” but I still do it out of necessity.
Rake the leaves
You might want to wait for a calm day for this one, but raking on a windy day just means more of a workout. There is nothing like raking your pile of leaves to one side of the yard only to see them scatter like Greg Moses when the dinner check arrives.
According to the Discovery Health online calorie counter, raking the leaves for one hour racks ups nearly 292 calories. Your shoulders will feel the burn, too. If you are raking up leaves, change the movement and direction to make full use of your muscles. Rake in front of your body to target your shoulders. Rake both right to left and left to right to work both arms evenly. This way, you’ll help prevent blisters by avoiding repetitive motions. Gloves are a necessity, as well, for obvious reasons.
If you want to get a workout and look like a tough guy wielding a giant axe, don’t just buy prepared firewood – toughen up and chop it yourself. Just 30 minutes of this lumber-jacked workout will pump up the back, shoulders and core, and cut your calorie surplus by 247 according to Livestrong.com. What does it say about me if my fireplace is gas?
Weed the garden
The grass is cut, shrubs trimmed, leaves raked and there’s enough firewood to last an ice age. But the yard could still use a few aesthetic touches. Dig, hoe, weed, plant and water your way to a beautiful yard and garden for 30 minutes and you will expend approximately 160 calories.
You may have experienced some aching muscles after working outside in the past, but there are actually several things you can do to prevent this soreness while still enjoying the outdoors:
* Yard work utilizes your major muscle groups just like any workout. So, always warm up first by simply taking a short walk around your yard or down the block to get the blood flowing to your muscles.
* Try some light stretches for your hamstrings and lower back (especially if you’ll be doing a lot of bending). I have found this to be absolutely essential when I am pulling weeds or weed-eating.
* It’s a good idea to take a few breaks throughout the day to drink some extra water and do some additional stretching. Hydration, while always important, is critical to reducing post-workout soreness.
If you learn nothing else from this column, learn to stretch before working outside in your yard. Your hamstrings, shoulders, and most importantly, your back will thank you.
Get to work and live well.