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Seasonal Chores That Turn Up the Heat

Chopping Woodby Beth Shepard, , M.S., ACE-CPT, ACSM-RCEP, Wellcoaches Certified Wellness Coach

The crisp, colorful days of autumn usher in a busy time of year for many — between working, shuttling kids to after-school activities, and preparing your home and garden for winter, you may wonder if you’ll ever find time to exercise.

But here’s the silver lining — many fall and winter chores have physical activity built in. Raking leaves and pruning roses aren’t a substitute for working out at the gym or going for a brisk walk, but you may be surprised at how many calories you can burn while tackling your to-do list. A little elbow grease here and there can really add up over time to help prevent weight gain — and that’s worth your effort, especially with the holidays approaching.

Reach For A Rake

Thinking about firing up the leaf blower? Grab a rake instead, and you’ll burn more calories — along with saving money on fuel and reducing noise pollution. Ditch the riding lawnmower and you’ll do the same. Here’s an estimate of what you’ll burn with these and other fall and winter tasks:

  Estimated Calories Burned
(30 minutes, 130 lb. person)
Estimated Calories Burned
(30 minutes, 150 lb. person)
Estimated Calories Burned
(30 minutes, 200 lb. person)
Cooking or baking, manual appliances 62 72 95
Cleaning house or cabin 93 107 143
Leaf blower 109 125 167
Raking leaves 133 154 191
Handheld snow blower 140 161 215
Trimming shrubs or trees, manual cutter 140 161 215
Weeding, cultivating garden 140 161 215
Spreading dirt with shovel 155 179 239
Carrying, loading or stacking wood 155 179 239
Hanging storm windows 155 179 239
Cleaning gutters 155 179 239
Clearing land, hauling branches 155 179 239
Mowing lawn on foot, power mower 171 197 286
Chopping wood, splitting logs 186 215 286
Shoveling snow 186 215 286

Safety First

As you can see, some very common household tasks and yard work are very strenuous. As with any type of physical activity, use caution when performing chores. If you have a medical condition or risk factors, your doctor may advise against performing physically demanding tasks.

Snow shoveling, for example, can be extremely dangerous for people with any of the following risk factors: personal history of heart disease or heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle or smoking. The combination of risk factors, cold air and heavy lifting can be fatal.

If you’re at risk, using a power tool or hiring a neighborhood teenager is a better option than attempting to do it yourself. Know your limits — and when it doubt, check with your doctor.

Torch Calories With NEAT

Who doesn’t want to be warm and cozy indoors when the weather outside is frightful? At this time of year, it’s easy to become sedentary — and pack on the pounds. But you can choose to stay fit and healthy no matter what the season with intentional, mindful physical activity. Any time you move your body, you burn calories — and unless it’s a planned workout, the calories you burn with this type of physical activity is called NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. The fantastic thing about NEAT is that it can account for anywhere from 15% to over 50% of your total daily calorie burn — and you can jack up this amount in a big way with even minor boosts in your daily physical activity. Wearing a pedometer is a great way to track your NEAT — gradually work towards 10,000 steps a day for good health. Whether you’re mopping the kitchen floor, hauling wood, or preparing a Thanksgiving feast, it’s motivating to see the steps add up.

Fall Forward

Why not plan to finish the year in better shape than ever? Many fall and winter chores are free exercise opportunities in disguise. Make a habit of seeking them out and welcoming them along with the spiced apple cider and pumpkins each year. If you don’t live in a house, volunteer to help the elderly in your community with seasonal chores. Find ways to keep moving, and you’ll enjoy this beautiful time of year more than ever.


Ainsworth B, Haskell WL, White MC, et al. Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000;32(suppl):S498-S504