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How your seasonal chores count toward your fitness goals
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Many are unaware that seasonal tasks serve as practical exercises, potentially burning more calories than various conventional fitness routines. Remarkably, an hour spent raking leaves can surpass the caloric burn achieved through a brisk walk or a weight training session.
Furthermore, engaging in seasonal chores such as raking qualifies as moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise. Consequently, the time dedicated to these autumn preparations contributes to the suggested weekly quota of 150 minutes of moderate exercise.
Calculate and track calorie burn of your seasonal chores
The American Council on Exercise provides a physical activity calorie calculator on their website, which indicates that an individual weighing 170 pounds (77 kilograms) could expend 308 calories from an hour of gardening activities, like raking leaves.
In contrast, a brisk walk at a speed of 3.5 miles per hour would result in a calorie burn of 293 for someone of the same weight. For indoor seasonal tasks, an hour of housework, using the same weight as a reference, burns 231 calories, equating to the caloric expenditure of a basic weight training session lasting an hour.
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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 and 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.
For instance, if you have only ever used 10-pound dumbbells for overhead pressing, you would know better than to switch suddenly to 50 pounds because you would likely hurt yourself.
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
Just as you would execute an exercise at the gym, you want to perform your seasonal chores with the same attention to 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. It may feel awkward and slow you down a bit to use your nondominant side, but hurting later will feel much worse and slow you down even more.
Make chores manageable
Be realistic about the tasks you are trying to accomplish. As with the earlier example of not using weights that you know you couldn’t lift, don’t risk injury by trying to do the impossible. 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. And then give your body some much-needed recovery by taking time to rest and put your feet up, eat a healthy, satiating meal and get enough sleep.
By following the guidelines above, you can safely maximize the benefits of fall seasonal tasks, getting your house, yard and body in shape for the upcoming holidays.