Homeowners have a love-hate relationship with Autumn. With this season comes a welcome relief from the heat of Summer and the dreaded weekly chore of raking those pesky leaves. This past weekend I spent a few hours raking on Saturday and felt pretty good about the progress I had made. Then overnight the wind picked up and when I woke up on Sunday it looked as if I hadn’t raked at all. It actually seemed like there was more fall coverage than before I raked.
In the past this would have been very irritating for me. I recall as a teenager I was convinced my parents had a son solely for the free labor, whether it be raking the leaves, mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. No seriously, as a punk-kid I think I actually accused them of this at one point. But now I have a healthier perspective. Like most outdoor chores, raking leaves is just another opportunity to move my body—to get some exercise.
In fact, not only is raking great exercise, it is one of the best core workouts you’ll ever have. If you’re like most people and you hate doing ab crunches any other kind of core-focused exercise, raking leaves is your ticket. After all, one of the elements of those other exercises you despise is the thought of slogging through a certain number of reps and just wanting to quit after ten or twelve. When you are raking you aren’t counting repetitions or strokes. You rake until the job is done. If that means it takes 200 or 1,000 strokes to finish the job, so be it. So what’s the difference? Why does your physical stamina seem to be so much better while performing a common household chore than working out in the gym?
Well there are many reasons. One is because in a typical gym-based exercise you are performing in a single plane of motion and isolating maybe one or two muscle groups. With raking you are moving across multiple planes and working several muscle groups at once. So the workload is being distributed amongst all those muscles and therefore there is less demand on just one or two. This is what we call “functional exercise.”
This is not to say that just because you can go longer with the raking that you are sacrificing any calorie burn. To the contrary, you will typically burn more calories with the raking than with the ab crunches. Not only are you doing it longer because you have a longer-term goal in mind beyond simply a number, but you are working all three layers of abdominal muscles (rectus, obliquues, and transverse), lower back muscles, most of your lower body muscles (quads, hams, glutes, calves, etc.), and many of your upper body muscles (biceps, triceps, lats, pecs, shoulders, rhomboids, etc.). Yes, there are functional exercises you can perform in the gym that will work a lot of the same muscles, but there is an added element with the outdoor activity to consider.
Isn’t being outside with the fresh air while moving your body while improving your home aesthetics just more stimulating and motivating? Getting yourself “outside the box” so to speak can be just the change of pace or scenery you need to inject new life into your workout regimen. And added inspiration always stimulates increased effort, improved performance and better results.
And finally, raking leaves is a workout by necessity if you think about it. I mean you can always find excuses not to workout:
“I really don’t feel like driving to gym today.”
“I’d rather not socialize today.”
“I’ll just work extra hard tomorrow or skip a meal this week since I’m skipping my workout.”
With yard work, it has to get done. Sure you could hire someone to do it for you, but why not take advantage of the amazing opportunity you have to get in a free workout and get your yard work done all at the same time?! And if you don’t own a home or your community association takes care of your yard, go rake someone else’s yard like a senior citizen or a single, working parent who could use the help. So in addition to the free workout you’ve done something nice for someone else and fed your soul all at the same time!