By Steve Graham, Networx
Running marathons and swimming laps are not the only way to burn calories. Housekeeping and yard work can also help you keep off the pounds. Here are 12 of the top calorie-burning home and garden chores, with estimated hourly calorie-burn rates for an average 145-pound person. Of course, each person mows, mops and dusts at a different pace and burns a different number of calories, so these are general estimates.
The first number is provided by the Livestrong Foundation, which lists the number of calories burned for a wide variety of jobs, sports and other activities. Wherever possible, a second number is provided by My Fitness Pal, which offers tracking for both caloric intake and caloric burn, online or with iPhone and Android apps.
My Fitness Pal has a smaller list of activities, so not all chores have two estimates. For example, the site does not break down specific cleaning activities but estimates that cleaning burns between 164 and 197 calories per hour for a 145-pound person. Likewise, gardening burns about 263 calories per hour, according to My Fitness Pal.
We also list caloric equivalents for the number of calories burned per hour. Many of the items and their caloric values are listed at Fatsecret.com.
1. Vigorous barn cleaning (526 calories per hour): My wife’s grandmother believes jeans should never be worn in polite company, and are only good for mucking out the barn. However, a few hours of barn cleaning could help you fit into smaller jeans. Mucking a barn for an hour burns off the caloric equivalent of one pound of pink salmon, and is by far the heaviest calorie-burning chore.
2. Stacking wood, digging dirt or exterior painting (435): One hour of any of these rigorous activities can burn off a healthy, complete dinner, such as three ounces of skinless chicken breast with two cups of steamed vegetables and a ½ cup of brown rice. In fact, these jobs are laborious enough to warrant talking to your physician before taking on any of them.
3. Shoveling snow or splitting wood (395 to 408): You can sit in front of the fire and eat a guilt-free 8-oz portion of meat lasagna after spending an hour burning off the caloric equivalent of the meal by chopping your firewood or shoveling the sidewalk. Pushing a snowblower instead of a shovel cuts the caloric burn by 100 calories.
4. Weeding or planting trees and shrubs (400): One hour of heavy yard work burns the equivalent of a McDonald’s hamburger and low-fat ice cream cone. Livestrong also lists caulking, interior painting, refinishing furniture and power-sanding floors at the same caloric burn rate.
5. Manual mowing (395): Eco-conscious homeowners realize the environmental benefits of manual push mowers, but there are health benefits as well. One hour of manual mowing can burn off the famous $3.95, 395-calorie KFC meal, which includes two pieces of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. Pushing a gas or electric mower is a lesser workout, burning 296 calories per hour.
6. Baking (168 to 348): You can pre-burn a few cookies-worth of calories while preparing them. The caloric burn level of baking varies widely depending on how much effort you put into kneading and rolling. However, keep in mind that each classic Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie has 108 calories, so plan on some strenuous baking if you plan to indulge in a plateful.
7. Cleaning gutters (329): Cleaning gutters burns as many calories as ballroom dancing, and an hour of climbing, reaching and scraping can burn the equivalent of one cup of chicken fried rice.
8. Raking and bagging leaves (263 to 283): One hour of raking fall leaves can burn the equivalent of a buttermilk biscuit.
9. Scrubbing bathtub and tile (260): The most vigorous indoor cleaning activity is bathroom scrubbing. It is probably my least favorite chore, but at least we can take comfort in knowing one hour of bathroom scrubbing will burn off slightly more than a McDonald’s hamburger.
10. Vigorous cleaning (220 to 250): Mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, edging the lawn and using a leaf blower all burn about the same number of calories. These tasks are not quite as much work as bathroom scrubbing, but they will burn off at least two chocolate chip cookies per hour.
11. Washing windows (197): Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but washing windows seems at least as strenuous as mopping. Livestrong puts it lower on the exertion scale, and suggests window-washing burns less than two cookies per hour. Also, washing cars, carpentry and electrical work all burn an equal number of calories to washing windows.
12. Light cleaning (164): Livestrong lists the following light, basic chores at the same caloric burn rate, which is equal to about one ounce of almonds: dusting, clearing dishes, taking out the trash, feeding animals and changing the sheets. Carrying groceries for an hour will also burn off those almonds, but the rate jumps to 493 if you carry groceries upstairs for an hour.
Finally, the Livestrong folks put ironing at the bottom of the chore list. However, they note that ironing is a full upper-body workout. At 151 calories per hour, ironing more than doubles the caloric burn of sitting and watching TV.
Instead of procrastinating on chores, think about the weight loss potential of all those tasks. Chores from mucking barns to ironing offer solid health benefits.
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Image: Carpenter Kevin Stevens of KMS Woodworks burning some calories by building a wall. Photo: KMS Woodworks.