As the seasons change, so do some of your inside and outside chores, especially if you live in a four-season climate.
For those in the northern United States, heading into autumn usually means raking leaves, packing up summer clothes, and pulling coats and other warmer clothes out of storage.
Regardless of climate, many people decorate their homes and landscapes for fall and the upcoming holidays, so lugging boxed decorations out of storage and spending time decorating are on many folks’ seasonal agendas.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that those seasonal chores are functional exercises that can burn more calories than some traditional fitness activities.
In fact, raking leaves can burn more calories in an hour than a brisk walk or weight training session.
What’s more, because seasonal chores, like raking, are considered moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, time spent preparing for the fall season counts toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Calculate & track calorie burn of your seasonal chores
According to the physical activity calorie calculator on the American Council on Exercise’s website, a person with a body weight of 170 pounds would burn 308 calories doing an hour of yard work, such as raking.
Comparatively, walking briskly at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour burns only 293 calories for that same 170-pound person. For those focused on indoor seasonal chores, using the same body-weight metric, an hour of housework at 231 calories is the equivalent of an hour of basic weight training.
The calculator gives you an idea of potential caloric burn, but keep in mind that these numbers are only estimations since your individual metabolism in any exercise session is influenced by many factors, including age, biological sex, body composition, fitness level and intensity of effort.
Using a wearable fitness tracker that includes this personal information in its calculation will give a more accurate, individualized number.
Avoid injury & maximize benefits by treating chores like exercise
When you go to the gym to work out, you carefully consider the weights you use and the time you spend exercising. You also gauge the overall demands on your body versus your fitness level and what you believe you are actually capable of doing.
Unfortunately, too many people forget to use that mindset when doing seasonal chores. Some look at the task at hand as simply needing to be done and just do it — or attempt to — without considering their own potential limitations, prepping their bodies for the demands of the task, and keeping in mind proper form and other factors while executing the chore. This lack of awareness can easily lead to injury.
To maximize your fitness benefits and lower your risk of injury, follow the tips below:
With any form of exercise, it’s important to prepare for the associated movements and effort. Take a few moments to move your body in all directions and planes of motion while raising your heart rate. Begin with some gentle stretching and progress to movements such as arm circles, walking lunges, lateral lunges, jumping jacks, jogging in place and other similar warm-up exercises.
Use proper form
Lifting should be done by bending your knees and using your legs as your main source of power. Stay aware of your balance and maintain stability with a hip-distance or a slightly wider, even stance during most tasks. Whenever you’re twisting, as you would when raking or shoveling, focus on rotating from the middle of your back — never your lower back — to avoid strains.
Because most humans have a dominant side, we tend to favor that side while doing chores. But doing an hour of sided work, especially seasonal work that you don’t commonly do, could lead to significant muscle soreness and overuse injury. That’s why it’s best to switch sides every few minutes.
Make chores manageable
Be realistic about the tasks you are trying to accomplish. Get someone to help with any heavy lifting beyond your capability, break up larger tasks into smaller ones and take breaks as needed.
Remember that an adult body is composed of up to 60% water. Even in cooler temperatures outside, we lose fluid through our sweat. That’s why it’s critical to take water breaks during your chores and keep hydrated after you’re done with your work.
Cool down and recover
Because your seasonal work may be less familiar to your body, there is a good chance you will feel sore afterward, having worked muscles in different ways than your normal routine. To lessen the chance of significant soreness, take a few minutes to stretch and breathe after you complete your chores.