How many calories are burned shoveling dirt?

Shoveling dirt can be a great way to burn calories and get some exercise. But just how many calories does shoveling dirt actually burn? The number of calories burned while shoveling dirt depends on several factors.

Calories Burned Per Hour Shoveling Dirt

On average, a 155 lb person will burn around 408 calories per hour shoveling dirt. The exact number of calories burned will vary based on the person’s weight and shoveling intensity.

Weight Calories Burned Per Hour
120 lbs 306 calories
155 lbs 408 calories
190 lbs 498 calories

As you can see, heavier people tend to burn more calories shoveling dirt than lighter people. This is because it requires more energy for a heavier person to move their body and the shovel.

Factors That Influence Calories Burned Shoveling Dirt

Several factors go into determining exactly how many calories you’ll burn shoveling dirt:

Your Weight

Heavier people need more energy to move their bodies and the shovel, so they burn more calories shoveling. A 155 lb person may burn 408 calories per hour, while a 190 lb person may burn 498 calories.

Shoveling Intensity

The more intensely you shovel, the more calories you’ll burn. Light shoveling may burn around 268 calories per hour, while heavy shoveling can burn up to 637 calories per hour.

Type of Terrain

It requires more effort to shovel dirt on uneven or sloped terrain compared to flat, even ground. Shoveling up or down hills can increase the calories burned per hour.

Resting Periods

Taking occasional rest breaks can allow you to shovel more intensely during your actual shoveling periods. This can lead to more calories burned per hour.

Type of Shovel

Using a heavier shovel requires more effort and will burn more calories. The same is true if your shovel has a smaller blade width, forcing you to take smaller scoops.

Total Shoveling Duration

Your calorie burn will add up the longer you shovel. Shoveling for 30 minutes won’t burn as many total calories as shoveling for an hour.

Calorie Burn Comparison to Other Activities

Shoveling dirt burns calories at a moderate rate compared to other exercises. Here’s how shoveling compares per hour:

Activity Calories Burned Per Hour (155 lb person)
Shoveling Dirt 408 calories
Walking (3.5 mph) 298 calories
Jogging (5 mph) 544 calories
Elliptical Machine 365 calories

As you can see, shoveling dirt burns more calories per hour than walking at a moderate pace but less than higher intensity exercises like jogging or using the elliptical machine.

Tips to Maximize Calories Burned Shoveling

Here are some tips to help maximize the number of calories you can burn while shoveling dirt:

Use a heavy shovel

Opt for a sturdy steel shovel instead of a plastic or aluminum one. The heavier shovel will require more effort to dig and scoop.

Take smaller scoops

Don’t overload the shovel with dirt. Smaller scoops require more repetitions and more overall effort.

Shovel at a continuous pace

Keep your shoveling rhythm steady with few breaks. This keeps your heart rate elevated.

Incorporate hills or slopes

Shoveling on an incline requires more energy than flat ground. Use hills to your advantage whenever possible.

Focus on good form

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees to drive the shovel into the dirt. Use proper lifting techniques to avoid injury.

Listen to music

Upbeat music can boost your energy and help you maintain a high shoveling intensity.

Shovel in intervals

Alternate periods of high-intensity shoveling with brief rest periods to shovel longer overall.

The Benefits of Shoveling Dirt

Beyond just burning calories, shoveling dirt offers numerous benefits:

Full-body workout

Shoveling works the arms, back, core, glutes and legs, giving you a total-body workout.

Improves endurance

The continuous effort of shoveling helps increase your cardiovascular and muscular endurance over time.

Builds strength

Having to dig into tough, compacted dirt and lift heavy shovelfuls builds strength, especially in the arms, back and legs.

Enhances balance

The standing, bending and lifting involved in shoveling improves your coordination and balance.

Stress relief

The repetitive nature of shoveling can be meditative. The exercise provides an outlet for stress.

Vitamin D

If shoveling outdoors, you get healthy vitamin D from the sunlight.

The Downsides of Shoveling Dirt

Despite the benefits, shoveling dirt does come with some potential downsides to be aware of:

Injury risk

Shoveling involves repetitive motions that can strain the lower back. Proper lifting technique is vital.

Weather conditions

Shoveling in hot, humid weather increases dehydration and heat-related illness risk.

Hard labor

Shoveling is physically grueling. It’s important to start slow and gradually increase your shoveling duration to avoid overexertion.

Blisters and soreness

The friction from shoveling can lead to blisters on the hands. Post-shoveling muscle soreness is also common.

Sun exposure

Too much sun while shoveling outdoors heightens your skin cancer and sunburn risk without proper sun protection.

Safety Tips for Shoveling

Use these tips to shovel dirt safely and avoid injury:

Warm up first

Do some light cardio and dynamic stretches to prep your muscles before shoveling.

Use proper form

Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and avoid twisting as you dig and lift.

Wear gloves

Gloves protect your hands from blisters and calluses.

Wear sunscreen

If shoveling outside, apply broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen.

Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water before, during and after shoveling dirt.

Pace yourself

Take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion, especially when starting out.

Listen to your body

Stop immediately if you feel pain, dizziness or excessive fatigue.

The Best Shovel for Dirt

A quality shovel makes dirt shoveling much easier. Look for the following features in a good dirt shovel:

Pointed, narrow blade

A pointed tip helps the shovel penetrate compacted dirt. Narrower blades require less effort per scoop.

Short handle

Handles around 32 inches long give optimal leverage for scooping and tossing dirt.

Flat-edged blade

A flat leading edge makes it easier to scoop loose dirt off the ground.

Steel shaft

Steel adds durability while minimizing flex when digging in.

D-grip handle

The D-shape fits the hands’ natural grip to provide comfort and control.


Shoveling dirt provides an efficient calorie-burning workout. On average, you can burn around 408 calories per hour shoveling dirt at a moderate intensity. But the exact amount depends on several factors like your body weight, shoveling pace, terrain and more. Following tips like using a heavy shovel, taking smaller loads and incorporating intervals can help maximize the calories burned. Just be sure to use proper form, wear gloves and pace yourself to prevent injury. If done safely, shoveling dirt offers an excellent full-body workout with plenty of calorie-torching benefits.

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