Minding the Body

The guide to health and happiness

Mow, Mow, Mow Your Lawn

Cut down stress by mowing the grass.

lawn mower
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Mowing the grass has mind-body health benefits. There's something meditative about pushing a mower back and forth across that patch of green. Plus, it's a practical way to work in a workout while burning some serious calories. So save the money on a lawn care service, and find another excuse to hire the neighborhood teen. Here's a look at why the grass is greener on the DIY side.

Leaves of Grass
Back and forth and back again. Focusing on the repetitive movement of mowing helps you slip into a calmer state of mind. Meanwhile, the green surroundings help restore attention and promote a sense of well-being.

Cardio by the Yard
Exercise-wise, operating a riding mower isn't much better than watching grass grow. But mowing the grass with any type of push mower counts toward the 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity) you're supposed to accrue each week. A gasoline- or electric-powered mower gives you a moderate workout. To maximize the benefits, choose a model without the self-propelled feature. Even better, pick an old-fashioned, manual reel mower. It offers a vigorous workout, and it's also quiet and environmentally friendly.

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Calorie Cutter
Cutting the grass helps mow down calories. To estimate how many:
1. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.
2. Multiply your step 1 answer by 0.08 (for a power mower).
3. Multiply your step 2 answer by the number of minutes spent mowing.
For example, a 150-pound person pushing a power mower for 15 minutes expends about 82 calories - comparable to briskly walking a mile in the same amount of time. A manual mower burns even more calories, comparable to running.

Eau de Mow
Ever wished you could bottle the soothing aroma of freshly mown grass? An Australian company has attempted to do just that in a product called Serenascent. Based on the research of Nick Lavidis, PhD, a neuroscientist at the University of Queensland, the product contains three plant compounds that may act as stress relievers. For a stronger whiff without the bottle, get out the lawn mower.

Greener Grass
If you hire a lawn care service, they're apt to arrive with a gas-powered mower, and the emissions from such mowers are a significant source of air pollution. Electric-powered mowers, which don't produce such emissions, are usually a cleaner choice, although generating the power to run them has its own environmental costs. Some localities sponsor lawn mower exchange programs if you want to trade in an old gas guzzler for a newer electric model. For the greenest option, choose a person-powered manual mower, possibly coupled with a scaled-down lawn.

Mower Muter
Another problem with many gas mowers is that they're very loud - about 106 decibels, which is earsplitting enough to cause permanent hearing loss over time. Noise this loud can also increase fatigue, cause irritability, decrease attention, raise blood pressure, and contribute to sleeping problems, even after the ruckus stops. Plus, in a typical suburb, the sound carries for a quarter mile or more, creating noise pollution for the whole neighborhood. Electric mowers tend to be quieter, and manual ones are quietest of all. If you do use a loud mower, wear protective earplugs or earmuffs, sold at pharmacies and hardware stores.

 

Linda Wasmer Andrews is a health writer with a master's degree in health psychology.

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