The Calories Burned By Mulching

Smiling woman in garden with pitchfork

Whether you go to the gym, ride your bike or get outdoors and do yard work, as long as you're moving your major muscle groups and raising your heart rate, you're improving your health. Taking care of your plants and gardens by mulching isn't only necessary to keep them growing healthfully, it's a way for you to burn calories.

Calorie Burn for Mulching

Mulching is one of those outdoor activities that usually goes along with other forms of yard work. As you lay grass clippings or manure or bark atop your plant beds, you are probably also hauling, weeding, bagging and raking. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound person will burn 300 to 410 calories per hour doing these kinds of activities. The Centers for Disease Control says that a 154-pound person will burn approximately 330 calories per hour doing "light gardening."

Exercise Recommendations

Mayo recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week to maintain a healthy level of physical fitness and decrease your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. You'll probably need to double that amount to see significant weight loss, however. The experts at Mayo also suggest strength training twice weekly. No need to make a trip to the gym, though -- mulching is one of those chores that keeps you moving on your feet; and, since mulch weighs in at about 600 pounds per cubic yard, moving mulch provides an opportunity to flex your muscles and burn calories.

Exercise Intensity

Moderate-level aerobic exercise, according to, includes brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn, and vigorous or high-intensity exercise includes running and aerobic dancing. A 155-pound person will burn 240 calories per hour raking leaves, 300 calories per hour laying sod or crushed rock and 446 calories per hour splitting wood -- that's the same caloric burn rate as swimming, downhill skiing or teaching aerobics for one hour. You'll know you're engaging in moderate-intensity activity if your breathing and heart rate are noticeably faster but you can still carry on a conversation. The more vigorous the activity, the faster you'll burn calories.

Weight Matters

Most people know that when you combine an increase in activity with a decrease in caloric intake, you'll experience a calorie deficit, which results in weight loss. The rate that you expend or burn calories will vary, depending on your body weight. The more body weight you have, the higher your caloric burn rate. That means you'll burn calories more quickly than another person doing the same activity who weighs less than you. You'll also burn calories at a slower rate as you lose weight.