Yes, yard work burns calories, too

It’s tough when something keeps you from getting to the gym. Instead of working out, you end up sitting around at work, or a middle school awards ceremony, or listening to an inebriated relative say things you never wanted to know.

But I found one thing that kept me from the gym that I’m actually feeling OK with – mowing the lawn. Think about it for a moment, and you’ll realize how much physical work actually goes into what most people, including myself, see as a nuisance.

I really wanted to get to the gym on Friday, but I said I would mow the lawn this week. With the weekend, and most of next week, looking like it’s going to get washed out, there was no way out of getting out of it.

My memories of mowing the lawn as a teenager consist of sweat, dirt and being chased by bees. Two of those things were true on Friday, but I was also unaware of how much I was actually working and moving.

Just start with the walking. If your lawn is of any significant size, you’ll be out there going back and forth for a good amount of time. It took me about 90 minutes this time around, which is a lot longer than I ever spend on the cardio machines. Of course, the workout I do there is much more intense.

And of course you’re pushing the lawn mower, and pulling the lawn mower, and maybe doing both those things on at a bit of an incline.

When the lawn was done, I didn’t feel like I did after one of my workouts, but within the hour, when I tried to go up some stairs, I could feel it in my legs. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

So how much of a workout did I really get?

According to an article on, if a 125-pound person uses a power mower for 30 minutes, he burns about 135 calories. Someone who weighs 185, burns about 200 calories over that same time. And if you use a hand mower, the number of calories burned goes way up. A 175-pound person burns 251 calories using a hand mower for 30 minutes.

And that doesn’t include if you rake your grass clippings instead of bagging them.

It doesn’t just have to be mowing the lawn. The National Institute of Health lists gardening for 30-45 minutes along with biking five miles or walking two miles in 30 minutes as a moderate level of exercise to combat obesity.

You’ll never look at that lawn or garden the same way again.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills. To find out more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 603-673-7123 or e-mail