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Published on June 01, 2020

Fall Chores are Good Exercise

Raking leaves

Check off your chores and cardio workout at the same time

Fall in the Puget Sound area means beautiful colors, cool breezes and time for s’mores around the fire.

It also means there are leaves to rake, wood to chop and gutters to clear yet again.

But instead of looking at these activities as chores, think about how they can help you stay in shape.

Daily activities – even simple things like climbing stairs or cleaning the house – are great ways to get a daily dose of physical activity and boost your cardio-respiratory fitness.

“There are several chores in the fall – pruning shrubs, turning over the garden, chopping wood – that help us be physically active and really use the muscles in our back, legs and arms,” says Jeff Roberts, manager of EvergreenHealth’s Cardiovascular Health and Wellness Center. “The bonus is that these are things most of us with yards need to do anyway this time of year.”

An exercise physiologist by training, Jeff says that while these activities are good physical exercise for anyone, they do tend to benefit most those individuals who are the least fit.

“If you’re an individual who is more sedentary and you engage in an activity above your normal physical exertion level, you'll increase your aerobic capacity probably more than someone who is regularly active,” he explains.

Intensity and length of activity matter

The intensity level of an activity does indeed matter—the more intense the activity, the more calories that are burned and the better the cardio-respiratory fitness.

“When something is of higher intensity, you consume more oxygen and utilize more energy. The activity challenges your cardiovascular system to perform at a higher level so you burn more calories,” Jeff says.

Jeff points out, too, that the length of the activity also influences the amount of calories burned.

Someone who performs an intense activity for 30 minutes may burn close to the same amount of calories as someone who does a more moderate activity for 60 minutes.

“Whatever level you choose, the emphasis is on doing something that will get you moving regularly,” he says.

So, take in the crisp, fall air and tackle your yard and your health at the same time.

There are lots of fall chores just calling your name:

  • Yard Work: Did you know that raking leaves for just 30 minutes burns 225 calories? Or that it can substitute for a session of weight training? The resistance provided by leaves makes this fall chore a type of weight training, toning all the major muscle groups in your body.
  • Cleaning Gutters: This activity provides a light cardiovascular workout as you climb the ladder and pull out leaves and other debris. It also helps with balance and coordination.
  • Fall Gardening: If you have remaining plants or weeds, now is the time to pull them out. An hour of work prepping the garden for next year can burn anywhere from 200-250 calories—and build those biceps at the same time.
  • Mulching: In addition to helping guard your plants against colder temperatures and harsh weather, mulching can build upper body strength as you lift bags or shovel mulch.

Tips for bending and lifting properly

Like all exercises, these chores require proper technique or you could find yourself with aches and pains.

Jeff recommends a few tips for proper climbing, bending and lifting as you work around your yard this fall:

  • Put safety first – don’t climb the ladder if you have poor balance and always have someone spotting you.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting.
  • Keep objects close to your body as you lift.
  • Keep your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Lift with your legs.
  • Avoid twisting while lifting or moving in a repeated fashion (like raking).
Jeff Roberts Meet the Expert

Jeff Roberts

Jeff Roberts is manager of EvergreenHealth’s Cardiovascular Health and Wellness Center in Kirkland, WA.

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