Public health experts have been telling us for years that grunting in the gym or gutting out a marathon are not the only ways to maintain good health.
It’s pretty much standard practice nowadays for exercise proponents, such as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, to talk in terms of just doing something active most days of the week.
That could mean using the stairs instead of the elevator or simply taking a half-hour walk after dinner.
My thinking has evolved along with the fitness guidelines, and there are a lot of reasons for that.
For starters, my body doesn’t bounce back as well as it used to from running. Being a husband and father also means fewer windows of opportunity to go to the gym (though my wife is very accommodating of my preference to exercise after work).
Add homeownership into the mix, and you can understand why I’m the happiest guy on the block when it snows.
According to WebMD’s calorie counter, an hour of shoveling burns more than 500 calories.
That’s roughly equivalent, in both time spent and calories burned, to a medium-paced freestyle swim. It also represents about one-fifth of the recommended daily caloric intake for a moderately active male between the ages of 46 and 50, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
So for me, getting exercise out of the way through yard work is the ultimate in killing two birds with one stone.
As a native Midwesterner, I love living in a four-season climate.
But I can’t stand heat, humidity and bugs. Spring days are great, but for my money, nothing beats a calm, sunny winter day.
That’s why, if I have to substitute yard work for the gym, I much prefer clearing snow or raking leaves. But I’m out there in the warmer months, too, trimming hedges, hacking away at ground cover, and cutting the grass.
My mower is self-propelled, and I don’t bag the clippings in the back, so it’s not that big of a job to cut the grass. It’s also a pretty simple way to get some exercise.
So, these people who use lawn tractors to mow tiny parcels leave me both bemused and befuddled. One guy near our house does this regularly, usually with a cigarette dangling from his lips.
To each his own, I guess. But as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather be traversing the yard than pushing up daisies.