Whether it is heating your home in the winter or stocking up for summer campfires, cutting and preparing firewood is a chore that offers physical activity and mental benefits.
Walking, twisting, lifting and carrying heavy wood works similar muscle groups as biking, running, rock climbing and cross country skiing. “Because of the coinciding timing, cutting firewood makes a great workout to prepare for winter skiing,” said James January, Marshfield Clinic Health System physical therapist.
When splitting wood with an axe, you are using your core muscle groups in an extended range of motion. This includes your abdominals, glutes, muscles along your back and triceps. “Whereas with a chainsaw, you are mainly stabilizing your machine with more of an isometric holding position,” January said.
Safety is a top concern
Wearing the right clothing and following standard safety guidelines are key when using tools and other equipment. To avoid muscle strains, you should warm up your muscles and tendons with light stretching for your hips and shoulder, jumping jacks and light jogging.
You can practice good form by keeping your weight on your heels to engage your core muscles. Check that you are not holding your breath during the movements. “Exhaling as you contract your muscles can give you 10 percent more power in what you are doing,” January said.
Mental health benefits
Exercise increases blood flow to your brain and endorphins make you feel good. Being out in nature provides additional benefits.
“As Thoreau said of chopping his wood for the winter, ‘this wood has warmed me twice.’ He was referring to the physical activity, but also the mental satisfaction of accomplishing a task that would keep him warm during the winter,” January said.