Stories from Fitness Tips

Yard work is basically strength training—here’s how to get stronger while mowing the lawn

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsMay 16, 2020

My dad spent every Saturday of my childhood blowing the leaves in our yard, obliterating any chance I had of sleeping in. It annoyed me to no end, and even more so when he waltzed inside to announce his “exercise was done for the day!” Years later, I’ll admit with great chagrin that yard work is an effective way to break a sweat. Is yard work good exercise? Cat Kom, ACE, trainer and founder of Studio Sweat onDemand, tells me that the answer is yes—especially if you’re super-mindful about your form, technique, and posture as you transform your yard from filthy to fresh.

“Turning your yard work into a workout is a wonderful way to combine home-care with self-care. My advice is to always stay mindful and motivated when it comes to doing these chores,” says Kom. “Maybe you work a little faster, sweep a little harder, bend down a couple more times than you need to. In the end, it’s your body that’s going to see the results.”

Below, Kom explains the workout virtues of three of your foremost yard-work activities: lawn mowing, leaf blowing, and gardening. Ready?

Yard work is good exercise—here are the benefits of lawn-mowing, leaf-blowing, and gardening

1. Lawn mowing is basically sled-pushing

Let me just shock you really quickly with this fact: The average lawn mower weighs between 90 and 100 pounds.”Mowing the lawn, like a lot of other yard work, has the potential to be a great workout, depending on your drive and motivation,” says Kom. “If you dig deep and push hard, you can get similar benefits as a sled push—high intensity and low impact cardio. Plus, you’ll be working your back, glutes, hips, core, hamstrings, triceps, shoulders—you name it!”

For the best sweat sesh, you’ll want to pick a mower that’s manual—not automatic (it will weigh about 20 to 30 pounds). “A manual lawn mower gives you the most intensity, while on the other end of the spectrum, hopping atop a riding mower will give you absolutely nothing. Of course, like the sled-push, you do not want to over-exert yourself, and you never want to jerk the motion,” says Kom

 2. Leaf blowing is the farmer’s carry of lawn work

Leaf blowers—like the one my dad used for my early-morning wakeup call—weigh a whole 50 pounds. While, yes, the mere act of carrying one of these babies is an arm workout, Kom says working one will also light your core up. And what comes after leaf blowing will really burn your body out.

“An even better exercise is when you eventually need to rake, gather, and scoop up all those leaves. With both movements, you want to keep your back straight while standing and engage your abs when bending. And if you ever feel anything even close to a strain, take a break and pick it up another day,” she says. By the end, you’ll have a clean yard and a workout behind you.

3. Gardening offers functional strength for everyday activities

Gardening, as long as you’re really getting into it, can be an amazing workout,” says Kom. “Ever heard of farmers’ strength?” Kom points out that because you won’t be lifting anything heavier than a flower box, you won’t necessarily get the stature of The Rock from planting your petunias. What you will get is functional strength that you can use throughout your everyday life. “Think about it: all that squatting, bending, lifting, digging, and raking. It’s an amazing, all-around way to improve your fitness, joint health, and overall power,” says Kom.

Your yard work is, indeed, a workout.

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