Mowing the Lawn Doesn’t Count

This is going to be yet another one of those posts that pisses more than a few people off.  I apologize if you take this post personally, but I can assure you that I am not writing this directed at any one person. It is more of a general observation and a bit of advice.

ex·er·cise [ek-ser-sahyz]
– bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health: Running is good exercise.

As most of you know, I am a member of MyFitnessPal.comand that is where I log my food diary and my exercise diary. If you have your profile set to public then it posts a status whenever you log your exercise and calories burned. I get a lot of feedback on the amount of calories that I burn during a typical workout.  To be honest, I impress myself sometimes (dollar in the DB jar…but seriously.)

One thing that I am not impressed with is how I notice that some people will log a 5 minute walk around the grocery store, or 30 minutes cleaning the house, or mowing the lawn. And then others will congratulate them on a 50 calorie burn. Granted, you will burn calories when doing menial and and normal tasks. But seriously guys…if you are serious about losing weight then get serious about your exercise.

Now don’t get me wrong.

I am a fan of “every little bit.” I understand that sometimes it takes small victories to win the overall war.  What I am more concerned with are the people that post that type of exercise yet are still struggling to lose weight and wonder why.  This is where I will make people mad, and I do apologize… I feel like there is something missing in the mental game. I feel like there is something wrong with the logic. I don’t think that there is a lack of desire, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

One of the things that they taught me in the MUSC Weight Management program (in which I failed) was that you should never count as exercise the tasks that you normally do on a daily basis.  They said that walking around in Wal-Mart or cutting the grass  does not count. These are normal tasks that I would be doing regardless of trying to lose weight. I should only count the exercise that I am doing, outside of my normal routine, with the specific goal of burning calories in my endeavor to lose weight.  I took this to heart while I was on that program and I feel that I have carried it over with me into this journey and lifestyle change.

If you are trying to lose weight then let’s make a deal.  Let’s look at our normal routine. The routine which we had while getting fat, during our fatness, and the routine that we will have after no longer being fat. That routine will include walking around the store, cleaning the house, mowing the grass, raking the yard, treading water while the kids are at the pool, etc.  Let’s not count those things as exercise. Let’s count those things as tasks and activities.  Now let’s add some extra stuff that is specific in our mission to lose weight. Stuff like walking the dog at a quick pace for an hour, running, swimming laps, lifting weights, doing push-ups, running stadiums, etc. Let’s count those as our exercise.

I hope that the people who are reading this who might be “the people” that I am talking about will understand my concern.  I want you to be able to overcome the difficulty that is losing weight.  I WANT to be able to overcome this difficulty.  I want the thoughts in your head to be “What can I do to exert myself in a way that I will lose weight,” not “What can I do so that I can eat that piece of cake later.”

I want to encourage everyone to put on their BEAST FACE and make a concerted effort to exercise with intent.

Exercise with vigor.

Exercise like your life depends on it.

Because it does.

16 comments to Mowing the Lawn Doesn’t Count

  • I love this post. It’s like the saying “If you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done.” Want to lose weight, you have to work-out and burn calories you don’t usually burn!

  • your wife

    It also reminds me of a saying, “If you eat what you’ve always eaten (or do what you have always done) you will weigh what you have always weighed.”

  • Whitney
    Twitter: ForestersFight

    I totally agree! Though I will say I have taken the opportunity to turn menial tasks into true exercise & in that case I log it. For example, I sprint up & down the stairs while cleaning house. I clean a toilet & then do 10 squats, another toilet and 10 more squats. I even lift my 30lb vacuum in bicep curls (though i dont think i should try that again.) I also really enjoy run/mowing. I sprint each line of grass I cut! It’s a way to make the most of the movement. BUT, if I don’t need a shower afterward for
    all the sweating I’ve done then it doesn’t count. 😉

  • Jackie F

    Mowing the lawn isn’t exercise?? Oh thank goodness!! I am NEVER firing my lawn guy. That was a close call. 😉 Thanks man – I love reading your posts – and yes, you made “those people” pretty angry. Truth is a nasty pill to swallow along with that extra piece of cake.

  • Julia
    Twitter: muzenews

    Love the post. I will admit to skipping out on a work-out if I know I have to mow the lawn. At least the mower is a human-powered/non-gas/non-electric one combined with a hilly yard. Still though, no excuse! Keep up the awesome work you’ve done already!

  • Greg
    Twitter: Locker_29

    Hank, I can’t agree more. Yes, every little bit helps, but when people are counting for things like mowing the the lawn or grocery shopping as a workout or part of a workout, all they are doing is logging excuses. That’s not to say that these things aren’t important, they are a great way to track that your overall life style has become more active. If a person, has gone from always hitting every drive thru they can to parking at the pack of the parking lot and walking around the store. It is a good thing but not worth noting in a workout log.

    Simple fact is that the only things that count are hard work, dedication, and discipline.

  • I absolutely agree with not logging walking at the grocery store or even vacuuming the house, but yard work I do once a month or once a week (depending on the season) and 75% of it consists of sustained strenuous activity. I’m sweating buckets for 2-4 hours while pushing the mower and raking leaves. How does that not count as a calorie burn? I log anything that breaks a sweat and gets my heart rate up for 20min or more.

    • hank

      Kris, results override objections any day. You have results for sure. 90+ pounds down speaks.
      My post is more about the mindset though. There are a lot of folks out there who say they want to lose weight, but aren’t willing to kick it to the next level to get there. My point is that you need to go above and beyond in order to lose weight. If you (the ubiquitous “you”, not you personally) are logging something that you would be doing regardless of a lifestyle change or an effort to lose weight then I feel like you are cheating yourself, regardless of how strenuous it is.

  • I bought an old-school reel mower last year and, believe me, it IS exercise.

  • Sammy

    blah i stopped using the riding lawn mower and started mowing my acre with a push mower. best workout ever….. Then again i live on a hill.

  • Ladonna

    I usually do not mow at all, my husband does all the mowing because we live on about five acres of land. However I have been loosing weight and trying to live healthy live style not only for myself but my grandkids. I decided that this morning I would go push mow what I could without moving any heavy equipment because I was doing it alone. I believe that I burned some calories and got an good cardio workout. I will keep doing this to our small field and around the closes part of my house and use it as exercise along with riding a bike pretty much everyday for a least 10 – 15 minutes and in hopes of loosing more weight and increasing the area I mow and longer bike rides in time. I am just trying to be more active and live healthier and in time I pray I reach my goal. But people like most of you on here are very discouraging and saddening to a person such as I. On top of all that my Doctor was very proud of me for getting out and push mowing and riding a bike even if the mowing is for only 45 minutes and riding a bike for 10 minutes. Sorry I believe it has helped me and will continue to help me reach my goal.

  • Jeff O.

    If I cut grass for two hours and get a good work out, great! But that is my STANDARD routine. If I want to get in better shape, then I need to ADD to what I am currently doing. Makes perfect sense.

  • Holly

    I respectfully disagree. I think logging in daily tasks is very important. Let me explain why. For one, you’re forming a habit which makes you less likely to forget to log in your stuff at all. I often forget to put what I ate for breakfast. Also, you’re still burning calories even if you’re just dancing to music as you hand wash your dishes. The whole premise of exercise is moving around. I am so not a gym rat. I hate going to the gym and I hate exercising. So I “trick” myself into moving around by doing chores. I still believe that if you’re pushing your mower, it’s excerise. You’re working your legs, abdominal so your glutes and your upper arms. I know this because I’m exhausted by the time I’m done. My whole body hurts. Its a strength and cardio all wrapped in one.

    Exercising is not limited to what’s considered typical. You know, jogging around the block, push ups and sit-ups, etc. I think that’s the disconnection. Anything you do is excerise so long as you’re re up and moving around. From lightweight/easy to heavy/strenuous. From dancing around washing dishes to carrying your decorations boxes up and down the attic or basement to pushing mowing your grass. It is not wise to go from couch potato to running a marathon right off the bat. You have to gradually work at it. So if you want to park farther than the store, that’s excerise. If you make a small bowl of chips and make yourself get up to get more by leaving the bag on the kitchen counter, that’s exercise (most people won’t get up to get more so that helps your diet too).

  • Bob

    Anybody who says that mowing the lawn is not exercise is a person who has never used a push mower on a hill. You have no freaking clue what you are talking about! I get a better workout mowing my lawn than I do going to my gym. You are using every part of your body, especially the legs.

  • Dawn

    While I completely agree about not counting the grocery store….I disagree about the lawn. Yard work is fantastic workout when you put forth effort. I was going to hit the gym yesterday, but decided that mowing for a friend would be a better way to burn calories and accomplish something. It was hard work, due to the massive size of the yard. I spent an hour and a half mowing with a push mower on uneven terrain. Sweat was pouring off of me and my body is super sore today. It’s all about effort.

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