The gym is not the only place to get an effective workout. There are many ways to stay fit without spending a lot of money or figuring out a time to exercise.
One great way to move your body is by doing yard work. Taking care of yard chores will help you get healthy and keep the outside of your house in tip-top shape.
Richard Martinez, M.Ed., CPT, certified personal trainer at the Texas Health Neighborhood Care & Wellness Fitness Center Burleson, says yard work is a great alternative to the gym.
“It allows us to get out of the house, get a little burn going, maybe get our heart rates up a bit,” Martinez says. “And at the end we feel good looking at a nice yard.”
If you want to put your muscles to good use, there are plenty of yard activities that will keep you fit. Martinez says the more muscles you move, the more calories you burn and the higher your heart rate.
“We hear the term ‘functional training’ used in many current fitness programs,” he adds. “It doesn’t get more functional than being out in the real world and using your surroundings to get a good workout.”
Opt for the rake over the leaf blower and ditch the riding mower for a push version. According to Martinez, a 150-lb man can burn 408 calories mowing the lawn for an hour. Raking leaves can burn around 292 calories and give you a good shoulder workout while trimming hedges can burn up to 235 calories.
Need some firewood? Martinez says that while chopping wood only burns around 247 calories, it’s one of the top five exercises you could do. Some top athletes chop wood as a form of cross-training.
Weeding your garden only clocks in at 160 calories but adds other benefits. It’s a great mobility workout since you will need to be flexible to get down on the ground, reach and pull the weeds.
“These activities can greatly lower your heart rate and blood pressure, especially if you add a little bit of intensity to your yard work,” Martinez adds.
He explains that our body adapts to whatever stimulus or activity we give it. If we stay active and put our body through physical stress by lifting weights, for example, then our muscles will grow. If we opt for a workout like yoga or tai chi, our muscles experience constant tension so they maintain their natural length.
The opposite is also true. When we spend too long sitting at a desk or in a car, our bodies don’t have to do as much work. Since we don’t need the range of motion, our muscles, ligament and tendons shorten.
“Yard work is a great way to remain functional by pushing a mower to strengthen your legs and core, by raking leaves to get stronger shoulders, and increasing your flexibility by stretching down to pull weeds and pick up leaves,” Martinez says. “Motion is lotion.”
Want to up the ante? Set a timer and see if you can shorten how long it takes you to perform a task. For example, when mowing your front yard count how many lines it takes to complete it. Next time try to shorten that time safely. As you get in better shape, keep the timer moving and add in the back yard and so on.
“I tell everyone we need to lift something heavy and get out of breath,” Martinez adds. “Using a mower can most definitely take care of both of these.”
Another benefit of taking your workout outside is an improved mindset. When you focus on yard work, you can rest your mind from information overload. Let your body soak in the sun and create vitamin D as you clean up your yard and create a neater outdoor space.
While tending to your yard, drink plenty of water and listen to your body. Take breaks when necessary to avoid overexertion. When temperatures rise, plan your yard work for the morning or late afternoon when it’s not as hot.
Martinez recommends doing a few basic stretches such as touching your toes and reaching across your body to stretch your shoulders. Another exercise that can help wake up the vertebrae in your back is a Jefferson Curl. Bring your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, tuck your chin and take 3-5 seconds to bend over while keeping your legs straight and rounding your back. Come back up in 3-5 seconds to the starting position.
Keeping your yard neat and your lawn manicured has other benefits beyond keeping your home value up. It’s a great alternative to the gym and can help you get your heart rate up and your muscles moving.
“Remember, just timing yourself in any activity will add intensity and get your heart rate up,” Martinez points out. “Regardless of whatever activity or fitness program you find, the main idea is to just move.”