Wood You Just Get Out and Exercise?
By Mark Maule
Health and Wellness/Adjunct Faculty Member

When people hear the word “exercise,” they often visualize going to a gym, running, lifting weights, or some other rigid, stereotypical activity. While these visualizations are great forms of exercise, they are by no means the only forms of exercise that are effective. Everyday, chore-related activity is often overlooked as actual exercise due to the necessity of the act. However, these seemingly menial activities can also be valuable means of exercise. For example, one of the most highly effective exercise regimens that fit this chore-related workload category is chopping wood.

Chopping wood is the processing of wood through the manual action of splitting, hauling, and piling. In northern climates, chopping wood is primarily used for the purpose of heating homes, preparing for an upcoming camping season, or cleaning up after storms. This activity does not merely apply to the stereotypical image of lumberjacks—nearly anyone can split, haul, or pile wood. In fact, chopping wood can be a family activity that incorporates not only needed exercise but also places emphasis on positive group dynamics and socialization. As a shared activity, chopping wood could also incorporate some family-friendly competition or self-esteem development through contests, such as a race to see who can pile the most or neatest wood piles.

Chopping wood is especially health-wise because it provides interval activity. As the motion of raising the splitting maul (or choice of ax) goes through its course, the triceps are extended, the abdominals are flexed, and the deltoids are recruited. Secondary stress is placed on the forearm flexors and the hip flexors during the course of one swing. Chopping wood is nearly an entire body workout and will be felt through delayed muscle soreness when the activity is completed for 60–90 minutes. It is very important to note that this exercise is not intended for anyone who cannot perform it safely.  No one younger than 14 or 15 should use a splitting maul because of the tremendous amount of muscle groups used and the dangerous possibility of striking oneself with the maul.

The act of hauling and piling wood is also another way to exercise because it provides muscular benefit to the biceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. It is possible to haul and pile wood as endurance components to a workout, but it is recommended to perform this action as part of an interval training module that lasts 60–90 minutes. If used as part of an endurance activity, you may experience fatigue prior to completing the chore or before you reach your specified exercise time limit.

As an exercise, chopping, hauling, and piling wood can be performed in nearly any climate. If you live in an urban area and do not have immediate access to wood, talk to a friend or relative who may need a dead or downed tree or brush removed from their property. You can even volunteer your time with your local Department of Natural Resources as they almost always have a project that requires the clearing of trees and brush.

With all of the health benefits and accessibility associated with chopping, hauling, and piling wood, why not try it? There’s no excuse: Wood you just get out and exercise?

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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