Any activity can burn some calories, but just burning calories does not always result in improved fitness or fat loss. Performing appropriately challenging workouts that stimulate positive body changes is the key to an effective exercise routine. Well-designed cardio or resistance training workouts are best for achieving your goals, but common activities, such as digging or shoveling, can also be made into effective workouts.
There are a number of activities that require digging or shoveling, such as working in the yard or clearing snow from the driveway. These activities can be fairly demanding, depending on how much total work needs to be done. They also create a different type of challenge than most people experience on a regular basis, especially in regards to the specific muscles and movements that are used.
Digging and shoveling create a significant demand on muscular endurance and/or strength, especially for the back and arms and most people become tired after digging or shoveling for a significant amount of time. For these reasons, it seems as though digging and shoveling could be good workouts by themselves, but there is a general problem with these activities.
When performing a quality workout that challenges strength or muscular endurance, there is a period of exercise followed by a period of rest. However, when most people start a digging or shoveling project, they keep working to get finished as fast as possible. From an exercise standpoint, this is like trying to complete a resistance training workout without any rest.
While the task does get completed in the fastest possible time, it also makes for an ineffective workout. Well-designed workouts should improve your existing level of fitness, but these types of activities just end up wearing your body down. In other words, as far as your body is concerned, they do more harm than good. Fortunately this can be changed by simply taking more breaks.
By taking breaks and resting, you can turn a digging or shoveling activity into an interval workout, meaning you will alternate between periods of high effort and low effort or rest. If you are in good shape, you can even push your body harder during the work periods than you normally would, but you will not be able to maintain this pace for long.
After a certain amount of time working, you should take a break or just walk around a little to regain some energy and strength before pushing yourself again. This back and forth between pushing yourself and recovering is the basis of any interval training workout.
You can adjust the difficulty level of these activities by changing the lengths of the work and rest periods (intervals). For example, you can work for 2 minutes and rest for 3 minutes or if you are in better shape you could work for 3 minutes and rest for 1 minute. It all depends on the difficulty of the digging/shoveling activity and your fitness level. Just be sure to pick an interval that is challenging, but not so difficult that you can’t recover during the rest periods.
Of course, there one a down side to this interval approach, which is it makes the activity take longer to complete. If you need to get your activity done as fast as possible, this may not be practical, but if your goal is to have the activity result in optimal fitness improvements and fat loss, then the interval approach is a great way to go.
There are also a couple safety precautions to keep in mind. First, if you are working in extreme heat or cold temperatures, be sure to dress appropriately and be sure to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. Also, when digging or shoveling try to use your legs as much as possible when lifting and do not rely on your back to do all the work. If you can keep your spine properly aligned (no excessive curve), it will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy back.
14 years of experience and continuing education in health and fitness.