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Econundrum: Which Gardening Moves Burn Most Calories?

Kiera Butler

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Image courtesy of Flickr user ezioman

Last weekend, when I finally ventured into my backyard garden after a long El Niño winter of rain, I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty sight. But I was not prepared for just how bad things had gotten. A few years back, Alan Weisman wrote a great book called The World Without Us, about what might happen to the planet if humanity suddenly vanished. He could have used my backyard as a visual. “Messy” would be a major understatement: Rosemary forest. Compost pile taken over by spindly weeds. Waist-high grasses, grown so thick I couldn’t even see the edges of the vegetable bed. Cat poop everywhere.

So I have my work cut out for me. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering the long winter has meant I’ve done a lot of sitting around, and all that weeding will be a good workout. Just ask gardening exercise guru Jeffrey Restuccio, who has written two books on the fitness advantages of yardwork. “To me the greatest benefit of eating organic food is not the food itself,” says Restuccio. “It’s the exercise that you get growing that food.” He’s also developed a series of moves that maximize the fitness benefits of gardening. (The lunge-and-weed looks especially awesome.)

With the help of the University of South Carolina School of Public Health’s Compendium of Physical Activities, Restuccio estimated the amount of calories burned during half an hour of common gardening activities. Unsurprisingly, turns out that in general, activities that require less power from the grid are also a much better workout. For example:

Mowing:

Ride-on mower: 101 calories
Push mower with motor: 182 calories
Push mower: 243 calories

Trimming:

Power shears: 142 calories
Manual shears: 182 calories

Weeding is also pretty good exercise, at 182 calories burned in a half hour. Restuccio doesn’t calculate how many calories you’d burn applying a chemical weed killer, but I’m guessing it’s pretty similar to watering, which burns only 61 calories. (One exception to the greener gardening=better exercise rule: “gardening with heavy power tools,” which burns a whopping 243 calories, presumably because the tools are, well, heavy.)

Full list of 18 gardening activities and calories burned:

Watering lawn: 61

Mowing lawn (ride-on): 101

Trimming shrubs (power): 142

Bagging leaves: 162

Planting seedlings: 182

Mowing (push with motor): 182

Planting trees: 182

Snow thrower (walking): 182

Trimming shrubs (manual): 182

Clearing land: 202

Digging, spading, tilling: 202

Chopping wood: 202

Gardening with heavy power tools: 243

Mowing lawn (push manual): 243

For more on gardening for exercise, visit Restuccio’s site:

Last weekend, when I finally ventured into my backyard garden after a long El Niño winter of rain, I knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty sight. But I was not prepared for just how bad things had gotten. A few years back, Alan Weisman wrote a great book called The World Without Us, […]

Are mowing and weeding exercise? How to use outdoor chores to burn a ton of calories

Just how much exercise comes from mowing the lawn or weeding the flowerbeds? This post will give you the good news on calories burned from outdoor chores.

You can get some great exercise while working in the yard and garden. My three favorite outdoor chore calorie-burners are:

  1. Mowing
  2. Weeding
  3. Shoveling

Where I live, spring can mean anything in terms of weather. One week I am getting my new garden ready for planting, while the next I might be dealing with a snowstorm. I used to gripe about shoveling snow since it meant taking precious time away from my busy schedule. But I stopped complaining once I realized what a great calorie burner it is-far higher than my moderate-intensity walk. That made me think about other outdoor chores that provide exercise. I don’t routinely replace planned exercise with outdoor chores. Still, I do use them for back-up calorie burners and to supplement my goals.

The outdoor activities in this post include both warm- and cold-weather chores. See the Compendium of Physical Activities for more ideas. In that list, the higher intensity activities have higher MET (metabolic equivalent of task) levels. If you are aiming for a “moderate-intensity” level, choose activities from 3 to 5.9 METs and perform them for 30 minutes of net time (that is, actual move time, not including breaks). More movement is beneficial, so even lower MET activities are helpful with increased motion. Higher MET activities benefit you with more calories burned per minute. All activities listed in the compendium are available for tracking in MyNetDiary. To learn more about METs, read Indoor Chores that Will Help You Burn Calories.

Mowing

Even if you push a self-propelled lawnmower, mowing burns a decent amount of calories and burns more than just walking. After all, you are walking while pushing or pulling a weight. MyNetDiary’s database identifies a self-propelled mower as a power mower. If I log 1 hour of “mowing lawn, power mower, light or moderate effort,” I burn 217 calories.* If your lawn is not level or you let the grass grow too tall, you can burn even more calories. In that case, log “mowing lawn, walk, power mower, moderate or vigorous effort.” If I decided to use a push mower that is not self-propelled, then I can burn 310 calories per hour.* If you use a seated or standing riding mower, then don’t log that as exercise.

Weeding

If you have a garden or flowerbeds, then you know how important it is to weed regularly so that they don’t run amok. Think of the annoying thistle-unpleasant and painful to pull once they mature. The good news is that weeding is a good calorie-burner, even if done with light effort. It’s the leaning over and pulling action and frequent squats that help burn calories. MyNetDiary reports that I burn 155 calories* when I log 1 hour of “weeding, cultivating garden, light-to-moderate effort.” Perhaps I’m in a bad mood and take it out on the weeds. I can ramp-up the calories burned to 248 calories/hour* when I log “weeding, cultivating garden, using a hoe, moderate-to-vigorous effort.” And it feels good to pound out a bad mood! I always feel better after I weed.

Gardening supplies and tools to make weeding a bit more pleasant and productive-

  • gardening gloves
  • gardening knife (Hori Hori)
  • kneeling pad
  • hoe
Shoveling

Shoveling snow by hand is a great calorie burner. To get my driveway and walkway completely cleared at a moderate pace, it takes me an hour without breaks. Based upon my weight (130 lb), MyNetDiary tells me that I burn 266 calories* when I log 1 hour of “shoveling snow by hand moderate effort.” Wow! That’s pretty good considering I only burn 155 calories* for 1 hour of walking. If you are pretty strong and can shovel fast and efficiently, then your calories burned will be higher. Choose “shoveling snow by hand vigorous effort.” Snowblowing also burns calories when you log “operating a snowblower, walking and pushing,” but if you ride a seated snowblower or plow, then don’t log that as exercise.

*Calories burned based on individual user profile data. Results will vary.

Other outdoor chores that burn a lot of calories:

  • chopping wood
  • cleaning gutters
  • digging dirt or sand
  • laying crushed rock, gravel, or pavers
  • painting outside of home or shed
  • picking fruit off trees
  • raking leaves

When I think of my outdoor chores as opportunities for supporting my health, burning calories, and working out a bad mood, those chores become activities that I don’t mind doing. Also, when I am done, my lawn and garden look wonderful, which makes me happy.

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Updated: May 27, 2020

Exercise->Aerobic & Cardio Exercise->Tips Weight Loss->Weight Loss Tips & Quips

Just how much exercise comes from mowing the lawn or weeding the flowerbeds? This post will give you the good news on calories burned from outdoor chores.