Outdoor Activities as Exercise
As spring moves swiftly upon us, I start to hear more people talk about their household and outdoor “chores” as their primary source for activity. While this type of activity is a great way to maintain and even improve someone’s health, in order to actually get consistent benefits from something like yard work or cleaning the house, several things need to be addressed.
One of the most beneficial things about structured exercise time (whether at a gym or at home) is the focus spent on proper form while doing exercise activities. When using weights and focusing on maintaining form, you are actually wiring your brain to maintain that form in your everyday activities.
When it comes to things like yard work or cleaning, how is your form? When you squat to pick up something off the ground, are you squatting or bending at your low back (picking up the kids toys)? When reaching, do you only lean with one side of the body, or are you reaching evenly with both sides (vacuuming)? Think a moment about an exercise class where people are reaching, pushing and pulling but only with their dominant hand. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
One of the best ways to ensure that your outdoor activity will count towards good exercise is to explore the imbalances of form inherent in yard work and improve on how to vary these activities in a more sustainable way.
Some activities are naturally prone to increased cardiovascular workouts. Think of anything that when done for several minutes brings your heart rate up, and even brings you to a sweat. Outside of snow shoveling, scrubbing, raking, aggressive digging, rearranging the furniture and shoveling heavier items like mulch can all reproduce cardiovascular workouts.
It is important, when counting chores as exercise, to incorporate these activities into a multi-week regularity. While most chores have an inherent therapeutic value (like gardening), cardiovascular exercise is essential to long-term health. Adding regularity to these activities in a weekly fashion can reproduce some of the effects of longer walks and improve your health without needing more scheduled time for exercise.
Frequency and intensity
Recommendations from health agencies vary to some degree, but adding workouts 3-5 times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes is essential. Take this into consideration when planning activities, and possibly spread them out over several days. While this can be a challenge when “things need to get done”, it will also serve a greater purpose in maintaining your own personal well-being.
The best option for long-term health and vitality is to spend specific time focusing on using the body in a sustainable way. Society may call this “exercise”, but as long as you keep the principles of exercise in your busy activities, there is benefit available during everyday chores as well.