Going to the gym may not be an option for many in the midst of a global pandemic. However, you may be able to lose some extra pounds just by doing work around the house, or rather, in the yard.
A recent study conducted by OnePoll found that homeowners burn more than 80,000 calories a year on average, just by doing yard work and gardening. The study surveyed 2,000 homeowners and found they spent an average of 165 hours each year maintaining and fixing up their homes.
The key to success is to make sure you are working in the yard consistently throughout the year. Even just mowing the lawn on a regular basis can burn an additional 4,000 calories in a year. Gardening can burn more than 3,000, according to the study.
“Depending on the season, you can always do something that’s very energy-consuming: shoveling snow in the winter, raking and bagging leaves in the spring, summer, and fall,” Joshua Margolis, a personal trainer and the founder of Mind Over Matter Fitness in New York City said. “Raking and bagging leaves is particularly good because you also do a lot of bending, twisting, lifting, and carrying — all things that can build strength and engage a lot of muscle fibers.”
Gary L. Altman, M.S., CRC, HTR and associate director of the Horticultural Therapy Program at Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences agreed that gardening is a great way to work out as it incorporates all four types of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility
“Gardening should be thought of as a whole-body exercise that works all of the major muscle groups including legs, buttocks, back, abdomen, neck, arms, and shoulders,” he said.
It is important to note that not everyone will burn the same amount of calories while working in the yard. It varies depending on many factors, such as weight, activity level, age and how vigorously you are performing each task.
Mayo Clinic estimated that a person weighing 150 pounds could burn 238 calories per hour while picking fruits or vegetables.
Average estimations for other outdoor activities include:
- Shoveling snow: 400-600 calories per hour
- Heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour
- Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
- Gardening: pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour
The health benefits of gardening go beyond just the physical. Gardening and yard work can also improve your mental health!
According to Altman, spending all that time outside can increase your vitamin D intake, which in turn boosts your mood.
He also noted that surrounding yourself with plants “creates a sanctuary for us to feel safe and calm.”
One 2010 study showed that 30 minutes of gardening decreased more stress than 30 minutes of indoor reading.
Gardening also stimulates all of your senses and helps you reconnect with nature, which has been shown to reduce stress and increase serotonin production.
Just make sure that while working in the yard, you take necessary precautions to avoid injury. Never lift with your back and don’t try to accomplish too much at once. Spreading out your chores will actually make them more manageable and help with building consistency in this routine!
“Gardening, the wrong way, as exercise can cause muscle soreness, back pain and is inefficient and not effective as an exercise program,” Jeffrey Restuccio, author of two books on how to transform gardening into a comprehensive fitness program said.