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Health Benefits of Chopping Firewood

Rachel worked as a farm manager for 3 years in Pennsylvania. She owned and operated a small farm in Minnesota for 5 years, until 2019.

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Choppin' Wood

Chopping firewood is my favorite chore. I was just doing some choppin' yesterday evening, and it got me thinking about all the great health benefits of chopping wood by hand.

There are, of course, a bunch of practical reasons to split wood, the number one reason being to provide a source of heat for your home if you use a woodstove. Secondary to that would be the desire to have campfires, bonfires, or other types of outdoor fires for pleasure, or even using a wood burning cookstove in your home.

But why split wood by hand when you can rent, buy, or build a log-splitter? Well, let's take a look at some of the benefits to body and mind of chopping firewood.

I'm not saying chopping wood will make you look like this fine gentleman, but it won't hurt either!

I'm not saying chopping wood will make you look like this fine gentleman, but it won't hurt either!

Chopping Firewood is Great Exercise

When you chop firewood with hand tools like axes and splitting mauls, you put several different muscle groups to work.

Your shoulders, arms, and chest get a great workout swinging the axe and picking up the wood you're working on. I have very "un-girly" (but totally cool) forearm and bicep muscles to offer as proof of that.

Your legs and gluteals also get a good workout, because if you're chopping properly you should be using your legs to generate power in your swing.

And then there's everyone's favorite muscle group to work on: the abdominals. When you swing an axe, you pull downward using your stomach muscles all the way. The axe should go straight down the middle of your body to get the best workout, and more importantly to avoid back injury. Chopping firewood is kind of like doing a bunch of crunches standing up - only a lot less boring. This works your obliques too. After a long morning or afternoon of chopping wood, I feel the muscle fatigue in my abs more than anywhere else.

If you keep chopping wood, you can build definition in your shoulder and upper back muscles as well.

Chopping Firewood is a Great Stress Reliever

Have you ever been so mad that you wanted to break something, but not mad enough to actually do it? Do you have a certain co-worker or family member that you sometimes wish you could just smack in the face?

I'm certainly not advocating such behaviors, but what I will advocate is that chopping wood is an awesome stress reliever, and just about the best outlet for frustration that I've ever found.

During any activity that requires exertion, chopping wood included, your body produces and releases endorphins and adrenaline - both feel-good chemicals! After chopping, once you've exerted yourself and spent some energy, you get a little tired and can finally relax from your stresses.

If you're angry, frustrated, or just having a bad day, I'd suggest picking up your axe and splitting some firewood. You get to participate in a process that is simulaneously destructive and creative: you're dismantling part of a tree, for heaven's sake, but you're also making firewood, something useful.

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FIREWOOD CHOPPING TIP

  • Use a stump to set the wood on that you intend to split. Elevating the logs will help stop you from straining your back.


  • When you've chopped all the wood, split the stump!
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Chopping Firewood Builds Self-Confidence

I'm not sure if chopping wood has the same confidence-building effect on men as it does on women, but I have a hunch that it can't hurt. From personal experience, I can tell you that it does a lot for the self-confidence of a young woman. Who's going to mess with me when I'm toting an 8-pound splitting maul, with a blade that I sharpened by hand with a file?

Ladies, let me present you with two mental pictures: In the first, a woman is running on a treadmill in the gym, wearing shorts and a sports bra, and just as expected some guy is checking out her butt - whether she's offended or not, he probably doesn't expect her to be. But all she's doing is trying to get some exercise!

Second mental image: A woman is chopping firewood, wearing jeans or work pants and a t-shirt or workshirt. She's swinging a heavy, sharp axe and busting open logs. She might look pretty good doing it, and maybe some guy wants to check out her butt... on second thought, that axe looks awfully dangerous!

In all seriousness, chopping firewood by hand can be a great self-confidence and self-esteem booster. You get to be strong and feel strong, and use your muscles the way they were meant to be used. Oftentimes you'll even get to use your problem-solving and critical-thinking skills so that you can deal with a particularly unfriendly log. Add to that the rush of adrenaline and endorphines that are produced during exercise, and you're feeling pretty good!

Plus, performing real physical work with a real purpose can feel a lot more rewarding than doing some crunches or running in place (not that there's anything inherentingly wrong with treadmills!).

Take this poll, please!

Final Thoughts

I would be lying if I tried to represent that chopping firewood by hand is easier than using a machine such as a log-splitter; maybe it's not even as efficient, and maybe it doesn't even make as much sense as using a machine.

But I know I'm being honest when I say it's more fun, and better for you. Even if you don't have much of a practical reason to try your hand at choppin', I hope you'll consider giving it a try anyway!


Comments

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on December 27, 2015:

Rachel, what an interesting idea, if you have a fireplace or wood stove. I would never thought about that, and perfect for winter. Great hub!

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on February 24, 2013:

John, glad you liked the hub and can appreciate the message. Swinging a sledge at a tire - can I ask why? Sounds like fun, though!

John-Rose from USA on November 04, 2012:

First things first, if some guy is checking out my backside while I'm chopping wood he better be far away, because I'm old fashioned and don't play that way. Seriously though, it is a great workout. Although I don't get to chop wood that often I do swing a sledghammer at a large tire from time to time and that is one heck of a workout.

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on October 20, 2012:

eugbug - Being a lumberjack would be awesome. Thanks for the comment :)

ignugent - I think you're kidding... I hope you're kidding ;) Thanks for the comment and votes!

adjkp25 - Sounds like fun :) Thanks for commenting!

David from Idaho on October 20, 2012:

We have 2 wood inserts to heat our home and we do chop some of the wood by hand so I am painfully aware of the benefits. Honestly I do rent a splitter every year to tackle the majority of our wood but chopping wood by hand can definitely give you a workout.

Voted up and useful

ignugent17 on October 20, 2012:

I think it would fun do this once in while but we all know that it is much better to go to the store and buy the wood.

Thanks for sharing the benefits. :-)

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on October 04, 2012:

Chopping logs is great fun and very therapeutic! When I was 10 I wanted to be a lumberjack but it didn't turn out that way (I didn't become an astronaut either!) Using a bow saw is great also for cutting through logs. And you can't beat the smell of burning logs in an open fire!

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on October 01, 2012:

aethelthryth - Wow, interesting! If she lived the kind of life that involved firewood, I wouldn't doubt it for a minute. Nothing like being outside and using your body the way it was meant to be used. Thanks for the comment :)

aethelthryth from American Southwest on October 01, 2012:

I am told that my great-grandmother, who lived to be 97, I think, was chopping her own firewood into her 90's.

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 24, 2012:

Bill - Yup, guess you missed it! I'm due to write another one though... I wish I could write as often as you do! Glad you enjoyed the hub :)

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 24, 2012:

cclitgirl - Thanks for the comment! Glad it rang true for you :)

Greeneryday - Thanks! I guess I am strong, haha. It's more of a belly and shoulder thing, rather than just arms.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 24, 2012:

When the heck did this come out? I was just sitting here wondering why you hadn't written in awhile, and it turns out you have.

I love splitting wood; wonderful exercise and it just feels good to do. In fact, I have some waiting for my attention as soon as I get done with a hub. Winter is coming soon! Great hub Rachel!

greeneryday from Some tropical country on September 24, 2012:

Wow you must have really strong arms to be able to chop hard looking woods easily, thank you for sharing this interesting hub. Voted up and more!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on September 20, 2012:

Oh, you have listed every reason why I love splitting wood. My hubby does it more than I do (I spend a LOT of time writing articles, LOL), but you're right: de-stress, build confidence, get all-over exercise. It's incredibly fun and it's SUCH a release!

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 19, 2012:

OldRoses - Thanks a lot! I love cutting, too. I cheat and use a chainsaw :)

Caren White on September 19, 2012:

Totally awesome hub! I never had the upper body strength to swing an ax, but I've sawn my share of firewood by hand. I love the satisfaction that comes from using firewood that I've sawn myself.

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 19, 2012:

Will - I'm with you there! When I switched to wood heat, I swore I'd never go back to electric or gas or anything else. Plus, firewood warms you twice! Thanks for commenting :)

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on September 19, 2012:

When I lived on a Kentucky farm, splitting firewood was a yearly chore because wood was the sole source of heat. I would not live in a cold climate without a wood stove. If all else fails, you can still burn wood!

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 19, 2012:

DreamerMeg - I'm not sure why you're dad would have reacted that way, either! Maybe it wasn't "lady-like" ;) But grandmothers know best, that's for sure. I agree that it's fun. Thanks for the comment.

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 19, 2012:

DrMark - Thanks for commenting :) I bet your Huskies LOVED those winters. Yes - stress relief at its finest! Maybe you can find a way to chop wood anyway, even if you don't really need the wood.

kathleen - Yes, woodsmoke, mmm... there's nothing quite like a real fire. Thanks for the comment :)

Rachel Koski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on September 19, 2012:

sherrituck - Glad I could help bring back such wonderful memories :) I hope you will have a fireplace or a woodstove to enjoy once again. Thanks for the comment!

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on September 19, 2012:

My grandmother "allowed" me to chop wood for her fire for her from I was 8 years old. My dad was horrified when he heard but I didn't understand why. It was fun!

kathleenkat from Bellingham, WA on September 18, 2012:

I remember the days of having a "real" fireplace, and going out and gathering wood and kindling was a healthy and fun activity in itself. This hub brings back memories for me, too, when I lived in older places that had "real" fireplaces. It sure is nice to flip a switch on my gas fireplace, but it takes away from a lot, too (ah, the smell of a real fire...)

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 18, 2012:

I do not miss the cold of the midwest US winters but I do miss going out with my Huskies and chopping wood. Today was really stressful and I would like nothing more than to chop a rick of wood!!!!

Sherri Tuck from Virginia on September 18, 2012:

This Hub brings back memories of my dad chopping wood. I love a wood fire. There is no heat like wood heat. I remember when I was a child, we had a severe ice storm and lost power. My grandmother cooked bacon and eggs on the wood stove in my family's basement. I so miss country life. My current house does not have a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, but my next one will