If you’re going to exert yourself, you might as well get some fresh air and a beautiful yard in the process! Many people find yard work satisfying because you—and your neighbors—can immediately see the results. Set aside some of your “convenience” equipment in favor of some old-fashioned muscle power, and you’ll burn even more calories while you work.
Make appointments with yourself to spruce up the yard. Make a list of every yard and outdoor chore that needs to be done around your house. Break them down into 30-minute jobs. (“Mow front yard” and “Mow backyard,” for instance.) Some of these jobs will be seasonal, and others will be monthly or weekly. Store this file where you will be able to refer to it regularly and add to it as you think of more jobs. On the family calendar, schedule 12 to 15 jobs that are appropriate for the next month. You’re more likely to keep appointments with yourself if you write them down.
Wash your car every week in good weather. As kids, there was no better household chore to tackle in the dead of summer than washing the family car: You got a chance to cool off with spray from the hose (and admit it, you horsed around with your siblings, too). Washing your own car today can be almost as fun, and with the prices of professional washes as they are, it’s a real money saver, too. Hauling buckets of water, dragging the hose around your vehicle, and scrubbing and buffing your car’s finish will burn between 200 and 300 calories per hour.
Shovel snow by hand. If you live in a snow-prone region and have a driveway that’s 50 yards long, okay, you need a snow blower. But many of us who have conventional driveways or a few square feet of asphalt to clear around a car that’s parked on the street will get through the winter just fine with an old-fashioned, broad-bladed snow shovel. Even light show shoveling can burn more than 545 calories per hour, and your shoulder and arm muscles will get quite a workout. If that’s too much of a challenge, use the snow blower on the driveway, but switch to a shovel for the sidewalk and front steps. Shoveling can be strenuous, even for very fit people, so check with your doctor before digging yourself out.
Skip the string trimmer. Unless you have a yard that rivals the grounds of Buckingham Palace, a power-driven string trimmer is probably more than you really need. Instead, tame the unruly grass blades that border your flower bed with a spring-loaded hand trimmer. Just be sure to keep the blades sharp, the mechanism lubricated, and wear work gloves to prevent blisters. Rake your own leaves. Sure, leaf blowers might just be one of the best inventions out there, but they’re so loud that some communities have banned their use. Do your ears and your neighbors a favor and cut back on your leaf blower use. If you have so many leaves that you can’t handle them with a rake alone, walk the perimeter of your yard with the leaf blower and corral them toward the center of the lawn. Then complete the job with your rake. You’ll still work up a sweat and burn nearly 300 calories per hour.
Trade in your riding lawn mower. You don’t have to push very hard to guide a self-propelled non-riding mower, but the walking will provide a nice aerobic workout.
Swing an ax, and heat your home this winter. Don’t let the firewood folks deliver a cord of pre-chopped logs to your backyard. That’s robbing you of great arm, shoulder, and back exercise. Starting in mid-summer, chop your own wood for half an hour every weekend. By the time snow falls, your upper body will be toned, and you’ll have the fuel to keep your home toasty.
Install your mailbox on the very edge of your property. Take down that mailbox that’s right outside your front door—that’s not getting you any exercise. Install your mailbox either at the very end of your driveway (or even farther out, if your property is expansive) and walk out for your mail each day. Once you’re off your driveway, you may be inspired to take a turn around the block.