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Everyday Calorie Burners

Too tired to hit the gym? Simple tips on how to burn calories doing everyday activities.

Is your day jam-packed with commitments — work, school, errands, housecleaning, child care? Do you laugh at the notion of even having 30 minutes to fit in an exercise DVD, much less time to run to the gym?

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good workout every day, just as part of your daily routine. Find out which everyday activities burn the most calories and how you can make them just a little bit more challenging, to raise your fitness level.

Stay Active Outdoors

This is the place where you can really burn some calories and build strength, so don’t hire out all your yard work. “Depending on the season, you can always do something that’s very energy-consuming: shoveling snow in the winter, raking and bagging leaves in the spring, summer, and fall,” says Joshua Margolis, a personal trainer and the founder of Mind Over Matter Fitness in New York City.

How many calories do typical outdoor activities burn? It varies a lot depending on your size (the heavier you are, the more you burn), age (younger people burn more calories), and how much muscle you have (muscle burns more calories than fat). But on average, here’s what you might expect to burn per hour while cleaning up your yard:

  • Shoveling snow: 400-600 calories per hour
  • Heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour
  • Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
  • Gardening: pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour
  • Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour

“Raking and bagging leaves is particularly good because you also do a lot of bending, twisting, lifting, and carrying — all things that can build strength and engage a lot of muscle fibers,” says Margolis. “You just have to be careful to do these things properly, bending at the knees and not straining your back. Gardening is great, too, because you’re constantly getting up and down, stretching, bending, and reaching to pull the weeds.”

How can you amp up the calorie-burning power of your yard work? Go old school, Margolis says:

  • Turn in your power mower for a push mower. You’ll probably burn about 100 calories more per hour and it’s better for the environment!
  • Exchange electric hedge trimmers for hand-held clippers.
  • Make everything a little more challenging. When you bring home plants from the garden store, take them back to the yard one flat at a time rather than stacking them on a wheelbarrow and moving them all at once.


Household Chores

Cleaning house is definitely a calorie burner, but it’s not quite as challenging as most outdoor work, Margolis says. “Unless there’s a new sport I haven’t heard of called speed vacuuming, you aren’t really elevating your heart rate much.”

The approximate average calorie count of typical housecleaning activities is:

  • Major cleaning (turning mattresses, washing windows, washing the car): 175-250 calories per hour.
  • Moderate housecleaning (laundry loads, mopping and sweeping, vacuuming): 150-200 calories per hour
  • Light housecleaning (dusting, straightening up, taking out the trash): 120-170 calories per hour.
  • Child care: 300-600 calories per hour (depending on how old the kids are and how active they are)

Just as with outdoor chores, to make these housecleaning tasks more of a workout, you’ve got to get back in time. Turn to an old-fashioned mop and a bucket full of soapy water that you have to carry and occasionally dump and wring out.

“Scrub,” advises Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a nutrition policy consultant for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. “There’s an old saying that elbow grease is what gets things clean. It burns more calories too.”

Giancoli also suggests switching arms — if you’re left-handed, scrub with your right and vice versa. “It makes it harder to do and tires out your muscles faster. Trying to become ambidextrous will burn more calories, help you move your body in a new and challenging way, and keep your brain alert.”

You’re probably trying to be efficient when you haul three loads of laundry up the stairs all at once — but you’re not burning that many calories. Instead, take advantage of your built-in “home StairMaster,” and take the clothes up one load at a time.

Taking care of your kids is perhaps one of the best ways to burn extra calories while doing chores around the house. Make your toddler giggle by pressing themВ up and down like a barbell 10 or 20 times.

And don’t just sit there watching them: do what they do. “Mimic the child’s movements: if he rolls on the ground, you do it,” says Margolis. “If she climbs on the monkey bars, you do it. If he spins in a circle until he falls down, you do it.”


If you’re running errands, be a little bit inefficient. Don’t organize your grocery list by aisle — so if you have to run back and forth a few times to get all the things you need, that’s just fine.

“When was the last time you took your grocery cart back to the corral?” asks Giancoli. “Next time you go shopping, park at the farthest space, and when you come back, take your cart all the way to the corral nearest the door. Get one more that someone else has left behind and bring it back too. You’ll burn a few extra calories and do a little good deed too.”

Stay Active at Work

There are still some jobs where you’ll get a lot of exercise: farming, stocking shelves, doing personal training. But these days, 80% of us work jobs that either confine us to our desks or require only light physical activity — burning about 120-150 calories an hour.

So how can you keep your work from broadening more than your mind?

If you’re really committed to getting more exercise in your daily life, you could ask your boss to invest in the newly popular “treadmill desks” — they cost $2,000 and up and let you work and work out at the same time. Or if you have a treadmill of your own, there are desks that fit over a treadmill and cost under $500. Giancoli bought an extra-tall desk that lets her stand while she types on the computer (you burn more calories standing than sitting), along with a barstool for times when she needs to sit.

Not that committed or can’t spare that much extra cash? A stability ball is a lot cheaper than a new desk, and depending on where you work, you could use it as a desk chair. “It will burn a few extra calories an hour, but its real benefit is building the core strength in your abdomen and back muscles,” Margolis says.

Or just set the timer on your computer calendar to go off every 50 minutes. When it rings, stand up and walk around your office for the next 10 minutes. (Get a cordless phone so you can keep up with your calls.)


“Any time you don’t have to sit, don’t,” Giancoli advises. “If you’re on the phone and don’t have to be looking at the computer, stand up and walk around your office or cubicle. Need to send a message to a colleague? Walk down the hall and talk to them instead of using interoffice email.”

Try to make your commute more of a workout as well. If you ride the train or bus, get off a stop earlier than usual and add a few walking blocks to your day on each end. If you drive, park as far away in the lot as possible.

To get the most calorie burn out of all of your everyday activities, Margolis says, there are three key principles:

  1. Be old-fashioned. Don’t use a motor when a hand tool will do.
  2. Be inefficient. Don’t make one trip when you can make three. Or five.
  3. Do it yourself.

“We’ve reached a point in our society where we can have so much done for us: groceries delivered, our houses cleaned, our dogs walked,” Margolis says. “But the more you outsource these tasks, the more sedentary you become.”


Joshua Margolis, ACE, personal trainer, Mind Over Matter Fitness, New York.В

Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, nutrition policy consultant, California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

Too tired to hit the gym? Simple tips on how to burn calories doing everyday activities.

Are mowing and weeding exercise? How to use outdoor chores to burn a ton of calories

Just how much exercise comes from mowing the lawn or weeding the flowerbeds? This post will give you the good news on calories burned from outdoor chores.

You can get some great exercise while working in the yard and garden. My three favorite outdoor chore calorie-burners are:

  1. Mowing
  2. Weeding
  3. Shoveling

Where I live, spring can mean anything in terms of weather. One week I am getting my new garden ready for planting, while the next I might be dealing with a snowstorm. I used to gripe about shoveling snow since it meant taking precious time away from my busy schedule. But I stopped complaining once I realized what a great calorie burner it is-far higher than my moderate-intensity walk. That made me think about other outdoor chores that provide exercise. I don’t routinely replace planned exercise with outdoor chores. Still, I do use them for back-up calorie burners and to supplement my goals.

The outdoor activities in this post include both warm- and cold-weather chores. See the Compendium of Physical Activities for more ideas. In that list, the higher intensity activities have higher MET (metabolic equivalent of task) levels. If you are aiming for a “moderate-intensity” level, choose activities from 3 to 5.9 METs and perform them for 30 minutes of net time (that is, actual move time, not including breaks). More movement is beneficial, so even lower MET activities are helpful with increased motion. Higher MET activities benefit you with more calories burned per minute. All activities listed in the compendium are available for tracking in MyNetDiary. To learn more about METs, read Indoor Chores that Will Help You Burn Calories.


Even if you push a self-propelled lawnmower, mowing burns a decent amount of calories and burns more than just walking. After all, you are walking while pushing or pulling a weight. MyNetDiary’s database identifies a self-propelled mower as a power mower. If I log 1 hour of “mowing lawn, power mower, light or moderate effort,” I burn 217 calories.* If your lawn is not level or you let the grass grow too tall, you can burn even more calories. In that case, log “mowing lawn, walk, power mower, moderate or vigorous effort.” If I decided to use a push mower that is not self-propelled, then I can burn 310 calories per hour.* If you use a seated or standing riding mower, then don’t log that as exercise.


If you have a garden or flowerbeds, then you know how important it is to weed regularly so that they don’t run amok. Think of the annoying thistle-unpleasant and painful to pull once they mature. The good news is that weeding is a good calorie-burner, even if done with light effort. It’s the leaning over and pulling action and frequent squats that help burn calories. MyNetDiary reports that I burn 155 calories* when I log 1 hour of “weeding, cultivating garden, light-to-moderate effort.” Perhaps I’m in a bad mood and take it out on the weeds. I can ramp-up the calories burned to 248 calories/hour* when I log “weeding, cultivating garden, using a hoe, moderate-to-vigorous effort.” And it feels good to pound out a bad mood! I always feel better after I weed.

Gardening supplies and tools to make weeding a bit more pleasant and productive-

  • gardening gloves
  • gardening knife (Hori Hori)
  • kneeling pad
  • hoe


Shoveling snow by hand is a great calorie burner. To get my driveway and walkway completely cleared at a moderate pace, it takes me an hour without breaks. Based upon my weight (130 lb), MyNetDiary tells me that I burn 266 calories* when I log 1 hour of “shoveling snow by hand moderate effort.” Wow! That’s pretty good considering I only burn 155 calories* for 1 hour of walking. If you are pretty strong and can shovel fast and efficiently, then your calories burned will be higher. Choose “shoveling snow by hand vigorous effort.” Snowblowing also burns calories when you log “operating a snowblower, walking and pushing,” but if you ride a seated snowblower or plow, then don’t log that as exercise.

*Calories burned based on individual user profile data. Results will vary.

Other outdoor chores that burn a lot of calories:

  • chopping wood
  • cleaning gutters
  • digging dirt or sand
  • laying crushed rock, gravel, or pavers
  • painting outside of home or shed
  • picking fruit off trees
  • raking leaves

When I think of my outdoor chores as opportunities for supporting my health, burning calories, and working out a bad mood, those chores become activities that I don’t mind doing. Also, when I am done, my lawn and garden look wonderful, which makes me happy.

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Updated: May 27, 2020

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Just how much exercise comes from mowing the lawn or weeding the flowerbeds? This post will give you the good news on calories burned from outdoor chores. ]]>