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Anyone thinking of using a manual lawn mower for the first time should consider warm-up exercises, says Prof. Gordon Bloom of McGill University. ((courtesy www.greenthinkers.org))

Al Hogg's mother likes to hear the clickety-click of a good old-fashioned manual lawn mower — and she is not the only Canadian who has gone from polluting to pushing.

The 70-year-old woman has been joined by thousands of people who have traded in their noisy gas-powered mowers to reduce pollution and get more exercise.

Hogg, who also operates a hardware store, has noticed a fairly steady trend in the sale of push mowers to people with smaller lawns.

"I would say overall there's a tendency towards those for sure in the last couple of years," he said in a recent interview.

"The reasons are probably a combination of staying active and environmental."

But Prof. Gordon Bloom, of McGill University's physical education department, cautioned that a push mower can be painful for the inexperienced.

"You're gonna have to push a little bit more and exert some muscles in your legs more," he added.

Bloom said anyone thinking of using a manual lawn mower for the first time should consider warm-up exercises and not going into it cold.

"It might be easier just to go for a brisk walk where you're loosening some of the muscles in your legs and getting your heart warmed up."

Bloom also suggested cutting the grass with a manual mower is a good way for parents to get their inactive children to exercise and stop them from playing video games all summer.

Mower rebates

One home-improvement chain said it has noticed a gradual switch from gas-guzzlers to push and electric mowers over the past seven years.

John DeFranco, a merchandising director for Home Depot, credits its long-running Mow Down Pollution program that has provided rebates for people who have turned in their old gas mowers.

The program has been promoted in co-operation with the Clean Air Foundation of Canada.

"What we were able to do … was really talk to consumers and highlight the benefits," he said from Toronto.

DeFranco said Home Depot has collected 17,000 gas lawn mowers and gas trimmers over the last seven years, with 2007 being an exceptional year.

He boasted that more than 5,000 gas mowers and trimmers were turned in over a 10-day period in April.

Fewer than 100 gas mowers were surrendered during the first year of the program.

'Simple way'

"[Gas] lawn mowers and trimmers and small engines across Canada emit 10 per cent of the greenhouse gases that are emitted every single year and as the world is trying to emit less, this is a simple way to do it," DeFranco said.

He noted that people in health-conscious urban areas like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, where there are smaller lawns, were returning their gas mowers and switching to push mowers.

"We're seeing it right across the country as Canadians are saying they want to spend more time outside … and that they care about the environment."

DeFranco said a basic push mower costs $99, while a top-of-the-line model can go as high as $319.