If you’ve got a lawn, then unfortunately, one inconvenience you’ll face is having to mow it every so often to keep it looking tidy. Mowing might seem like nothing more than a chore, but if you knew you could burn calories doing so, would it seem more worth your time?
Intriguing right? There are two questions to think about here:
You’re probably already getting the feeling that the answer to the first question is a resounding yes, and you’d be absolutely right! Like all activities in our daily lives, pushing a lawn mower requires movement and energy so therefore calories are burnt when we do it.
This is a great start if we’re hoping to get a bit of a workout in while we keep our lawn in tip-top condition, but the question of how many calories are burnt is a little more complicated. This article will go into a bit more detail about the ins and outs of calories, how they relate to our bodies, and the factors that will dictate how many we burn whilst mowing the lawn.
On that note, let’s get started with the basics.
If your high school science knowledge is a little rusty, have no fear! The most common way to describe a calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C. 1g of water equates to 1cm3 of volume, so picture a small cube where each face is 1cm x 1cm – that’s how much water is heated through 1°C by 1 calorie of energy.
Calories can be measured in two different units. The first of these is the most modern and most common, and is simply the calorie (or kilocalorie for larger amounts), with the unit symbol cal (or kcal in the case of kilocalories). 1 kilocalorie is made up of 1000 caloriesor:
1kcal = 1000cal
Calories can also be measured in joules and kilojoules, although this is less popular and more antiquated. For simplicity and relevance’s sake, we’ll stick to the cal/kcal measurement.
This is a more complicated question than people usually realise, as there are so many factors to take into account. We’re all different and we all have different bodies, so essentially, there is no black and white, one-size-fits-all answer.
In the most basic of averages, the range tends to be around 20-30 normal steps to burn 1 calorie. Even this average answer is flawed though, because what constitutes a “normal” step will depend on each person’s height, weight, age, and individual gait.
Coming back to mowing your lawn, there’s another factor to think about, and that is the dimensions of your lawn itself. At this stage you might be thinking “20 steps for 1 calorie burned, that doesn’t seem like very much in my small garden” and you’re probably right.
However, mowing a lawn entails going up and down across the whole garden rather than just once down the length of it (unless of course your garden is only a strip the width of your lawn mower!) so the steps will add up quite a bit. There may also be patches that are particularly overgrown that might require several passes with the mower.
So we’ll move onto the next section to answer the second question…
We’ve now seen what a calorie is and generally how many steps it takes to burn one. But what happens when you add the weight of a lawn mower to the mix?
Again, there is no set answer to this because of all the personal factors mentioned above. The heavier you are, the more calories you’ll burn and the older you are, the less calories you’ll burn. Your height and gait will also impact how much energy you exert to do a task, so take these figures with a pinch of salt as they really are only rough averages.
The average person burns between 350 and 450 calories pushing a lawn mower for an hour. If you use more force or push more quickly then you’ll burn a bit more and if you take it easier, you’ll burn a bit less but that probably goes without saying.
The type of lawn mower you’re using will also impact how many calories you burn as each type will come with different weights and shapes that might make it easier or harder for you to push. Different kinds of lawn mower might also have different types of resistance depending on the mechanism they use to cut the grass.
For a person weighing between 70 and 80kg a power motor used at a moderate rate for an hour burns approximately 370cal whereas the same rate and time with a hand mower will burn around 440cal.
In a nutshell, it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly how much energy you’ll burn while mowing your lawn, and again, the size and shape of your lawn will also have an effect. One thing you can count on though is that mowing the lawn is a great form of low-impact exercise that will get your heart rate up whilst also allowing you to complete your garden chores.
Everything we do in everyday life burns calories, we know that. But we rarely actually THINK about it, about how many calories we burn just doing the things we need to do. Gardening is no exception and there are loads of tasks we need to do to keep our garden’s looking tidy which means there are loads of opportunities for calorie burning!
Here are a couple more examples as well as the rough average amount of calories they burn:
Using a Riding Mower – approximately 180cal
Watering Your Plants or Lawn – approximately 110cal
Raking with Moderate Effort – approximately 280cal
Applying Compost to Beds or Seeding a Lawn – approximately 220cal
Weeding or Planting – approximately 300cal
As you can see, all different types of tasks in the garden burn calories, and perhaps unsurprisingly, mowing the lawn with a mower you have to push is at the top end of the scale in terms of how many.
Apart from just burning calories, mowing the lawn can have a whole range of other health benefits, so if you needed more incentive to get your lawn summer-ready, here it is!
Mowing the lawn is a form of aerobic exercise, which as we mentioned before, means it gets your heart rate up. Aerobic exercises are really good for improving lung health and capacity, regulating blood pressure, and minimising risk of illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, and stroke.
Pushing a lawn mower is also a form of resistance exercise which means your body is working against an opposing force. You might think of resistance exercises as things like lifting weights where you’re working against gravity, and using resistance bands where you’re working against tension in the band, but mowing the lawn works in the same way.
When pushing a mower, you’re exerting force against an object that is heavy and therefore exerting a force against you as well. Pushing against this resistance engages your core, arm, and leg muscles as well as muscles in your back, hands, and even neck.
This is not to say you’re going to sprout Hulk Hogan muscles after one lawn mowing session, but with consistency, you will feel yourself getting stronger.
Mowing the lawn also provides an opportunity for you to get outside and get some fresh air which is always a good thing. As a society, we spend entirely too much time indoors, in front of screens, hunched over and stressing. Feeling the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair while you do some light exercise is a great way to break up the day and refresh yourself.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re burning 1000s of calories or only a couple of hundred – anything you burn will make you feel better. Even light exercise can help you to feel more energised and focused, as well as positively impacting your general health and wellbeing.
These benefits coupled with the fact that you’ll have nice, neat grass and a perfect canvas for your summer barbeques make mowing the lawn all the more enticing. It’s not a job that needs doing too frequently, but keeping on top of it will get you outside, get you moving, and make it a less daunting task each time.
Mowing your lawn might also inspire you to get on with other gardening tasks such as edging, composting, and pruning – all of which also burn calories and improve the appearance of your garden. With all these arguments stacked in favour of mowing your lawn, why wait?
If you’re in need of a mower upgrade or replacement but don’t want to break the bank, here are some budget options that will give you good results without the wallet-ache.