Smart weight watchers find ways to exercise while carrying out everyday activities. They take the stairs instead of the elevator, they walk to the corner store rather than drive, and they use good old-fashioned hard work rather than modern machinery to get things done around the house. Raking leaves rather than using a leaf blower is a good way to burn a few extra calories while getting some crisp fall air.
The American Council for Fitness and Nutrition estimates that the average person burns an average of 150 calories by raking leaves for half an hour.
The American Association of Retired People sets the number slightly lower, saying it is possible to burn 240 calories an hour, or 120 calories for half an hour of raking.
A few factors, mainly weight, affect how many calories you can burn during a given activity. Larger people require more energy to move, so they burn more calories than a smaller person even though they might do the same activity for the same amount of time.
Intensity and form also determine how many calories you'll burn. Really digging into the leaves and contracting your core muscles will create resistance and burn more calories than simply dragging the rake along the surface.
Why It Works
Raking leaves doesn't seem like much of a workout, until you break down the motions. Extending the rake requires the use of the deltoids and trapezius muscles, as well as muscles in your legs. Pulling it back works the laterals, triceps and abdominals. In addition to working the upper body, raking builds the core, or trunk, which stabilizes your body while you're moving.
Bagging the leaves will provide you with additional exercise. Though leaves aren't heavy, you will work your lower body a bit by bending at the knee to pick them up and smashing the leaves into the bag.
According to the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, raking leaves for half an hour burns about as many calories as mowing the lawn for half an hour, shoveling snow for 15 minutes or gardening for 30 to 45 minutes.
Intensity and Safety
Raking leaves at a moderate pace provides an aerobic workout roughly equivalent to a brisk walk, so if your doctor finds that you are healthy enough to take walks, you should be able to rake leaves as well, barring extenuating circumstances such as back problems.
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