Muscle your way through yard work

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Spring has finally sprung, in all its glory. The azaleas are flaunting their colorful radiance, daffodils are sprouting up towards the sunshine, and, yes, sooner or later the grass needs to be cut. Tempting though it may be to hire a neighborhood teen to do the job for you, there are many benefits to engaging in this annual ritual that you might not want to pass up.

Unless your home is situated on 10 acres of land or more, chances are good that you have a push mower and not a ride-on piece of equipment. From the moment you attempt to power up its engine, you are already putting muscles to good use. The movement of pulling that lever to bring the engine to life will call upon the use of your deltoid and latissimus dorsi, the muscles of your shoulder and upper back.  

Once you get started on the lawn, the chest muscles are primarily responsible for pushing the mower in a forward motion. The pectoralis major and minor must flex in order to provide the force required for propulsion.  In addition, the triceps, located on the backs of the arms, help lock the forearms in place over the mover and aid the pecs. These muscles work in a synergistic fashion; that is, they complement one another to perform the task.

When pulling the mower backward over a patch of grass, the muscles on the back of the body carry the brunt of the workload while front of the body is more at ease. The latisimmus dorsi comes into play once again, along with some of the rhomboid muscles located in the upper middle back. Further facilitating this action are the biceps muscles of the front upper arm as well as the rear section of the triple-sided deltoid muscle. 

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If this sounds like a good workout, just wait — it gets better. A 150-pound individual cutting grass for an hour with a power mower will burn up to 306 calories. If using a push mower, that same hour will burn up to 363 calories.  Suddenly it is making prudent sense not to hire the local kid.

By the time your lawn looks ready to appear on the cover of House Beautiful magazine, you can relax with a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade, content that your workout was as successful and complete as your yard work endeavors.