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5 forms of yard work that totally count as exercise

Who needs a gym membership when you have a lawn to mow?

Dad weeding in the yard with the help of his daughter

If you think of gardening as a mellow, relaxing activity for old people, think again. Gardening and yard work involve carrying bits of metal, repetitive motions that build and require strength, sweat on your brow (especially during summer)… this is exercise, a full-body workout that doubles as lawn care.

And potentially it’s better than going to the gym. You don’t have to pay a membership fee, and doing this work yourself saves you money, because you don’t need to hire someone else. Plus it takes place outdoors and you get to choose the music (or you can just listen to the birds chirping).

Here are five things to do in you lawn or garden this summer that we say count as a workout. (After all, you’re moving and pushing your body, physical activity that means yard work is exercise.) Just wear sunscreen and, just like if you were at the gym, start slow and listen to your body. Remember: If you start to ache, put down the rake.

In this article:

Mowing the lawn

If you have the kind of lawn mower that you can ride, take this activity off the list (or put that thing back in the shed and get old school). An electric mower that you have to push will still provide you some exercise, and a manual one is optimal, but both provide a pretty full workout. You’re using your arms, chest and shoulders, plus your quads (which is where the main power should come from). And if your lawn is big enough, you even get a good walk.


If painting fences as exercise was good enough for Mr. Miyagi, it’s good enough for us. Yard work isn’t all about plants, you also need to keep the dead things in your yard in reasonable shape. Paint the fence, paint the shed, varnish the furniture. All this needs to be done regularly, preferably when there’s little chance of rain.

This will build your arms and chest, as well as your stamina. Just wear a mask if you’re varnishing, otherwise the good you’re doing for your muscles may be undercut by the effect on your lungs.


The hole digging is good for the shoulders (and the legs if you need to push the spade into the soil with your feet). The bending down to put things in the holes is basically a series of squats. And if you’re planting heavy things, maneuvering them into place is a series of farmer’s carries (somewhat literally). Depending on their severity, pulling weeds are basically like rows.

Raking leaves

If you use a leaf blower, you’re still getting exercise, but it’s better for you (and the planet) if you use a manual rake. The raking is mostly upper body — there will be bicep burn — but then you need to bag the leaves, which works your quads and core.


Really, the main reason to chop wood is that it looks cool. Also, it’s also full-on exercise. Doing it with an ax is difficult, satisfying and sweaty. Using a chainsaw is just pure fun, but it’s also surprisingly sweat-inducing: chainsaws are heavy, and moving one through a log feels like the opposite of a hot knife through butter.

You also get to use the wood for your barbecue, which is reasonable, because you’ll be hungry by the time you’ve done everything on this list.

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About Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

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