Calories Burned Digging & Shoveling Dirt

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Digging and shoveling dirt do not only feel intense. They can also help you burn more calories due to the vigorous movements you do.

Some rough estimations are that the average person will burn around 384 to 660 calories while shoveling at a vigorous effort (about 10 to 15 lbs/minute) for one hour.

These numbers can be useful to help you get some idea of what to expect from digging and shoveling dirt.

At the same time, you don’t want to take the estimations too precisely since many details like exactly how fast you shovel, your body weight, your body composition, etc. influence the number of calories you burn.

This article will also go over more detailed estimations for different body weights, compare different types and intensities of digging and shoveling, and more.

Big influences on calories burned while digging & shoveling

This can be annoying but it is actually very hard to accurately predict how many calories a person will burn while digging and shoveling.

That being said, even just making your estimations somewhat more accurate can be helpful. One way to do this is to look at what details influence the number of calories you burn while digging a lot.

These details can also make it easier to modify this activity in ways that burn more calories.

With that in mind, some of these details that play roles in the number of calories you burn while digging and shoveling are:

  • Body weight: Your body burns energy aka calories to keep you alive and move around. Heavier bodies tend to burn more calories to do these things.
  • Digging intensity: How fast you shovel plays a role in how many calories you burn while digging. Faster movements tend to burn more calories.
  • Body composition: Body composition means the ratios of different tissues your body has. This is relevant because an amount of body fat tends to burn fewer calories than the same weight in muscle while shoveling.
  • Material you are shoveling: The material you move by digging and shoveling can vary a lot and influences the energy you have to use. Something like heavy mud tends to burn more calories than powder snow.

Estimations calories burned digging and shoveling

The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention mentions you can burn between 3.5-7 calories per minute for light shoveling (less than 10 lbs per minute) and more than 7 calories per minute for heavy shoveling (1).

In reality, you can make more estimations for specific types of shoveling and body weights with the right MET values. MET values are numbers that represent how intense activities are.

Once you have the MET values for digging and shoveling, you can insert these in the formula below to calculate rough estimations of how many calories these activities burn.

Following formula: METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute

You get very precise numbers from this formula but you still need to know these will not be completely accurate. There are other details that influence the number of calories you burn too.

With that in mind, the MET estimations for digging and shoveling vary from 4.3 at digging worms for fishing to 8.8 at vigorous effort shoveling (more than 16 lbs/minute) (2).

In the first table below, you can find the calorie-burning estimations for different people shoveling 10 to 15 lbs/minute at a vigorous effort.

After that, you can compare the estimations for how many calories different intensities and types of shoveling burn.

Calories burned while digging and shoveling

Instead of counting the number of shovels of dirt you do, you likely prefer looking at the time to figure out how many calories you burned while digging and shoveling.

The numbers below are estimations for shoveling at a vigorous effort (10 to 15 lbs/minute).

Weight Person
1 Minute15 Minutes30 Minutes60 Minutes3 Hours
125 Pounds
(56 kg)
6 calories96 calories192 calories384 calories1152 calories
155 Pounds
(70 kg)
8 calories119 calories238 calories476 calories1428 calories
185 Pounds
(83 kg)
9 calories142 calories284 calories568 calories1705 calories
215 Pounds
(97 kg)
11 calories165 calories330 calories660 calories1981 calories
Chart of calories burned with vigorous effort shoveling

Calories burned with types of shoveling

Shoveling and digging include many different intensities and types of digging. In turn, you can expect the burn different amounts of calories.

In the table below you can find estimations of calories burned with a few of these like digging worms, shoveling snow, shoveling coal, etc. when doing the activity for 30 minutes.

Weight Person
Shoveling Type
155 Pounds (70 kg)185 Pounds (83 kg)215 Pounds (97 kg)
Digging Worms
157 calories188 calories218 calories
Spreading Dirt183 calories219 calories254 calories
Shoveling Sand183 calories219 calories254 calories
(<10 lbs/minute)
183 calories219 calories254 calories
Shoveling Snow
(Moderate Effort)
194 calories232 calories269 calories
Shoveling Dirt
Or Mud
201 calories240 calories279 calories
Shoveling Coal231 calories275 calories320 calories
Shoveling (10 to
15 lbs/minute)
238 calories284 calories330 calories
Shoveling Snow
(Vigorous Effort)
275 calories328 calories381 calories
Digging Ditches286 calories341 calories396 calories
(>16 lbs/minute)
322 calories385 calories447 calories
Calories burned per 30 minutes during shoveling types

Ways to burn more calories while digging and shoveling

By now, you likely understand that you can still influence the number of calories you burn while digging and shoveling a lot.

The most straightforward way to burn more calories per minute of digging and shoveling is by working at a faster speed. You could even get an afterburn effect from doing this.

Secondly, you can increase your weight in a healthy way by building some muscle mass.

This extra weight will not only help you burn more calories while digging and shoveling but also throughout the rest of the day.

Lastly, if you don’t get to the point of overtraining, digging and shoveling for longer should make you burn more calories.

Can you lose weight from digging and shoveling?

If you want to burn more calories you likely also want to know whether digging and shoveling can help you lose weight and how much.

Something important to note is that details like your diet will influence your weight loss results a lot. Not everyone who exercises loses weight.

That aside, you can get some interesting numbers by creating a (likely) fictional situation where all the calories you burn with digging and shoveling come from body fat.

A 185-pound (84 kg) person burns around 568 calories or about 0.16 pounds (0.07 kg) while shoveling at a vigorous effort (10 to 15 lbs/minute) for an hour.

If this person completes four shoveling sessions like this, they would burn an extra 2272 calories or about 0.65 pounds (0.28 kg).

Again, to make it so this calorie-burning from shoveling comes from fat or other sources, your lifestyle habits also need to be good enough.

What muscles do digging and shoveling work?

When digging and shoveling, you work muscles like your lower back, glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), shoulders, biceps (front upper arms), quadriceps (front thighs), calves, and chest.

This will not always apply but some resistance training beginners could even see a small amount of muscle growth from digging and shoveling.

Are digging and shoveling good for burning calories?

Digging and shoveling can be good activities for burning nice amounts of calories. Especially if you really focus on picking up the pace.

At the same time, you need to know that there are also many exercise options that can burn more calories than digging and shoveling.

The number of calories you burn while digging and shoveling is a positive side effect but you likely don’t want to do this as a workout if you have other options.

Besides that, you want to know that building some extra muscle mass outside of your shoveling sessions can increase your calorie-burning results during them.


How many calories do you burn digging for 2 hours?

If you weigh about 155 pounds (70 kg), you will burn around 952 calories while digging for 2 hours. Lighter people tend to burn fewer calories. Heavier people tend to burn more calories.

Does digging burn fat?

Digging can help you burn fat if you make it so there is not enough energy coming in from food and other energy stores to fuel your movements.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.