Home / Bone & Joint / Cutting firewood offers more benefits than keeping you warm

Cutting firewood offers more benefits than keeping you warm

Axe chopping wood - Benefits of chopping wood, being a "woodchuck"
Cutting firewood works your core muscle groups: glutes, triceps and back.

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.

For questions about the benefits of physical activity, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

Related Shine365 posts

Bonus cold-weather warmups

Layer up when working out in the cold

Sunburn and windburn: Winter skin damage culprits

10 responses to “Cutting firewood offers more benefits than keeping you warm”

  1. Jim Parr

    I'm an 85 year old male with mild arthritis. I go to the gym twice a week and always include some planks and some shoulder exercises, rotating my shoulder joints against 15-25 pounds of weight with my elbows at my sides. I'm considering getting a wood splitter which would have me hitting the end of a log with a hammer or axe. Do you think those impacts would be too hard on my joints?

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello Jim,

      Your doctor is your best resource for identifying which activities may be right for your condition. We suggest you reach out to him/her regarding your question.

      If you are a Marshfield Clinic patient, you can message your provider directly through My Marshfield Clinic: https://www.marshfieldclinic.org/mymarshfieldclinic

      Thank you,

  2. Darlene

    How does shoveling 3 feet of snow compare with making firewood? At this point we are not only moving it laterally, but throwing it 8 ft. In the air as well. That's got to count for something and everyone around here has snow to shift. Forget the blower and muscle off the driveway!

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Darlene – thank you for reaching out!

      I shared your comment with James, physical therapist, and he said, "You're right about shoveling being an incredibly intense activity especially around the Northwoods of Wisconsin! The differences between shoveling snow and spitting wood are significant. Firstly, shoveling has a lot more rotation to it, so the chances of back injury are higher unless you really learn how to engage your core muscles. Secondly, with snow shoveling you need to make sure you balance your rotational component by throwing the snow equally to the right and left to avoid overuse injuries to your body. And lastly, the squatting and lifting performed during shoveling replicates far fewer winter sports than chopping wood. Overall, both chopping wood and shoveling snow are great exercise opportunities that have great practical outcomes to boot."

      You may also enjoy this Shine365 story about shoveling safely: https://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/heart-care/safe-snow-shoveling-infographic/


  3. k. c.

    did not say anything about those of us with osteoarthritis ….how does splitting wood help ease the pain ….

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, K.C.

      Your doctor is your best resource for identifying which activities may be right for your condition.

      I did share your comment with James, physical therapist, and he said, "Good question about OA and splitting wood. It really depends on your level of OA and where it is located in your body. If you have moderate to severe OA in your shoulders, splitting wood is probably not a good activity for you… but if you have mild to moderate OA without symptoms, especially after splitting, then you will be doing your condition a favor. Remember that OA gets worse under two conditions: too little activity or too much activity. Finding an activity that is fun and challenging is the best path for success, and if splitting wood does that for you, then I recommend it."

      Additionally, you may like these Shine365 videos: https://shine365.marshfieldclinic.org/tag/exercises-for-arthritis/

      Thank you for reading Shine365. -Kirstie

  4. Mark

    We heat over 4200 square feet between home & outbuildings with wood, and all our hot water. It's wonderful using a renewable resource and has saved us hundreds of dollars over 15 years.

  5. Norbert Arnoldi

    how do I delete the pop ad for subscription?

    1. Kirsten Shakal, Shine365 Editor

      Hi, Norbert. Are you referencing our email sign-up? If so, there is an X in the top right-hand corner of the pop-up. This allows you to close it from your screen. -Kirstie

  6. Dave Luepke

    Paul Bunyon never used a chain saw!! I cut my firewood the old fashioned way, with a hand saw. Pile it up all summer and then split the big chunks when it's cold. You forgot to mention the money saving. We went two years in a row needing only about $100 a year for propane. And there is nothing better than coming in from the cold to stand in front of the wood burning stove to warm up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *