IOWA DERECHO 2020

The benefits of yard work

It's not the workout we wanted, but it's still a good one

Guiseppe Gianforte, a Kennedy senior and center and linebacker, carries a dead tree while volunteering with other member
Guiseppe Gianforte, a Kennedy senior and center and linebacker, carries a dead tree while volunteering with other members of the Kennedy varsity football team to clean storm debris from the practice fields in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

This last week has shown us many things — from our own determination and resiliency to the benefit of family. friends and neighbors.

It’s also given many of us a good workout — one we’d rather not have to deal with, but a great one all the same.

“Yardwork that comprises raking, mowing the lawn for at least 30 minutes, weeding and sweeping the patio are extensive cardiovascular workouts,” Sadi Khan, a fitness research analyst at RunRepeat.com told InsideHook. “They pump up your heartbeat, allowing you to break a sweat. Strengthening yardwork, meanwhile, involves lifting heavy pots or vases around, chopping wood, digging, and shoveling snow; these movements target bigger muscle groups like the core, upper body muscles and the thighs.”

Of course, you have to be careful not to jump in and work too hard, too fast and for too long. Listen to your body and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated — just like with any exercise regimen.

“When the body’s bending or stretching, it doesn’t know whether it’s pulling on a machine at a fancy health club or crouching down to pull some weeds,” Robert Herbst, a 19-time world champion powerlifter, told InsideHook. “If it’s being made to work, it’ll experience the same physiological effects as a prescribed exercise movement. As such, people should warm up by walking or stretching before they do any yardwork.

“It would be wise to also do the lighter chores first, then moving on to tackling heavy tasks as moving bags of peat moss once the body has heated up.”

And be safe using equipment — like a chain saw — you normally don’t use.

If there is a silver lining as we dig ourselves out from the derecho that devastated much of Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities, it’s that we’re outside, sweating and getting in a good workout.

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“Doing yard work is a great cardiovascular exercise,” according to Dream Maker Spas. It is a “great way to increase oxygen flow to the heart, aids in arterial flow, reduces blood pressure and stress, and gets your heart rate going.”

Here are some activities and their benefits:

Chopping wood — Here’s something a lot of people are getting in these days, and it’s not necessarily for firewood. “If you want to get a workout and look like a badass wielding a giant ax, don’t just buy prepared firewood,” Men’s Journal notes. “Just 30 minutes of this lumber-jacked workout will pump up the back, shoulders and core, and cut your calorie surplus by 247, according to Livestrong.com.”

Raking — Men’s Health also reports that “according to the Discovery Health Calorie Counter, raking the leaves for one hour racks ups nearly 292 calories. Your shoulders will feel the burn, too.” Raking also gives you a full-body workout, according to Dream Maker Spas, working “your legs, shoulders and core.”

Mowing — Men’s Health notes lawn equipment is a “convenience, but cuts out the cardio, muscle stimulation and calorie-burning effects of hard work. Ditch the riding mower for a traditional push mower for a cardio workout that conditions the calf muscles. According to CalorieCount.com, a 150-pound man can burn 408 calories an hour mowing the lawn.”

Trimming hedges — Another tip from Men’s Health is don’t use gas-powered trimmers. Manual cutters “stimulate muscles in the forearms and shoulders and according to FitDay.com, one hour of playing Edward Scissorhands will lop off approximately 235 calories.”

Other chores — “The movements you make while weeding, pruning and digging all work parts of your upper and lower body,” according to dreammakerspa.com.

Yard work also can improve your flexibility, a benefit for the athlete in all of us, but especially as we age.

“Because you’re using your whole body, the muscles and joints are moving in all types of directions, which increases your ability to prevent muscle pain, inflammation and static muscles from inactivity,” dreammakerspa.com notes.

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And, if nothing else, it gets us outside, breathing fresh air. These times are giving us all the “opportunity to get some much-needed fresh air and natural vitamin D through sunlight,” dreammakerspa.com notes.

But, “remember your sunscreen whenever you’re out in the sun.”

Comments: jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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