The Backyard as Fitness Boot Camp: Burning Calories While Gardening

I'd always heard that gardening is good exercise, but as a grownup, my "yard" consisted of a few potted plants on a concrete patio, so I never gave the idea much thought. Then we moved to a house with front and back lawns, plus a whole lot of weed-choked landscaping. As spring finally surfaces in Seattle, I'm experiencing what I can only describe as backyard boot camp.

It all started with a manual push mower. Near the end of last summer, my hubby-to-be got a hankering for a new toy — er, tool — and picked up the highly rated Fiskars Reel Mower. Compared to our gas mower, an old hunk that the previous owners abandoned in the tool shed, this new mower was a sharp machine in every way. It was also really hard to push. Wimps through and through, we gave up and stuck with the automatic for the last few weeks of the season.

Not this year. The reel mower is a far more eco-friendly option than our gas-guzzler. It also happens to be a killer workout. According to the calorie calculator I checked, a 180-lb man can burn around 485 calories per hour mowing the lawn manually. That translates to a bit less for me, but it's still an impressive stat. This past weekend, I spent nearly two hours mowing our seriously overgrown lawn, in addition to my usual daily workouts. Booya.

Other gardening activities fare well for fitness too, from digging and wedding (around 400 calories per hour) to less strenuous stuff like planting seedlings (still a respectable 300 calories per hour). Every time you squat or lift or pull, you're toning your muscles too. That's pretty awesome, right? Plus it's free and you get to enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your hard work every time you walk outside.

I know a lot of gardeners who marvel about the peaceful, meditative process of nurturing a yard. Not me. Every blade I cut and every weed I yank is like a gym session, complete with sweat and grunting. And I like it that way. It's less of a chore and more of a reason to celebrate with a post-gardening margarita.

My man and I are getting married in three months, so I (crazily?) volunteered to do all the yard work until then. I may have calluses and perpetually dirty fingernails, but thanks to this extra outdoor exercise, I'm certain to look smashing in my slinky white dress.

What about you? Do you look at your overgrown backyard and see a fitness boot camp waiting to happen?

(Image: Shutterstock)