If you garden for pleasure, you may not be aware of how beneficial this hobby is for your health. While you’re preparing your garden plot to grow fresh veggies, or while you’re busy turning the compost pile, you’re actually doing a decent amount of exercise as well!
Basic yard care tasks such as mowing the lawn and raking up leaves are also good ways to get exercise. Additionally, gardening and yard care are beneficial for your mental health, too. Just think of the relaxation you experience when working in the garden.
Not convinced that mowing the lawn and planting veggies can be as good for you as an aerobics class? The research proves it! Various health professionals and university studies show that gardening and yard work are more than just enjoyable hobbies.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the research that shows just how beneficial gardening and yard care is for your health. Additionally, we’ll share some tips with you so that you can maximize the health benefits of your gardening experience.
What gardening for exercise can do for you
Gardening and yard care are unique forms of exercise that allow you to do something calming, creative and fun while you work various muscle groups and get a moderate level of cardiovascular exercise as well.
This is truly the great thing about gardening for exercise, as you can use your whole body while you’re working. Gardening involves a number of different kinds of exercises, including stretching, weightlifting, and a moderate cardiovascular workout.
Barbara Ainsworth and Associates published an excellent article about exertion values related to a number of common gardening activities. The study showed that you can expend as much effort raking the lawn as you would during a leisurely bicycle ride. Trimming trees and shrubs is roughly the equivalent of walking at a moderate pace. Heavier work like clearing brush and stacking wood can give you the equivalent workout as a light aerobics class.
Dan Hickey, the former editor of National Gardening Magazine, is also a big fan of gardening and yard work as a form of exercise. He has been involved in studies related to how many calories you can burn while you garden and claims that 45 minutes worth of gardening can burn as many calories as 30 minutes of aerobics. He also talks about turning compost as a great alternative to lifting weights, and raking the lawn as the equivalent to using a rowing machine.
Like other forms of exercise, gardening can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and keep away problems with heart disease, diabetes other diseases related to inactivity and excess weight.
You can also use gardening and yard work to keep extra pounds off. Later in the article, we have listed some information on roughly how many calories you can burn doing different gardening activities. Remember, if you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll generally loose a little weight.
The National Institute of Health also recommends gardening 3-5 a week for 30-45 minutes as a way to help reduce problems with obesity. Baptist Memorial Health Care, an award winning health care network also recommends gardening as a form of exercise.
Activities in the yard and garden are also a form of exercise that is appropriate for a variety of people and age groups. Depending on the activity, gardening and yard work are not quite as hard on your body as say jogging and other forms of moderate to strenuous exercise. This means that even if you’re older, you can still enjoy puttering in the garden and cleaning up your lawn. There are a lot of activities that you can do in your yard and garden with a wide range of physical exertion levels, so you’re bound to find something to fit your needs.
For older gardeners, especially women, gardening can also help reduce problems with osteoporosis. Just make sure you check with your doctor first if you’re older and haven’t already been gardening for a while. That way you can tackle the gardening tasks that are appropriate for you.
Another great thing about gardening is that for many people it’s already a hobby. If you enjoy the form of exercise you’re doing, you’ll look forward to it, and you’re more likely to stick to your routine. Personally, I’d much rather be among my plants and out in the sunshine than in a crowded room with music blaring doing aerobics.
If you already garden, good for you! You can increase the amount of time you spend gardening to improve your health even more. If you’re not an active gardener, think about starting a small garden plot of veggies. This way, you can combine the joys of growing your own food with a light exercise regimen.
How Best to Garden for Exercise
When gardening, like will other forms of exercise, you’ll need to follow a few basic tips to maximize your experience. First off, you should warm up a bit. Do some basic stretches so that your muscles are ready. Also, if you plan on lifting any heavy objects, remember to always lift with your knees, not your back.
A good bit of advice Dan Hickey from National Gardening Magazine gives is to start off with a moderate exercise/gardening program and then work your way up to heavier tasks and activities. This is especially important if you’re not already an active gardener, or if you’re an older gardener. Don’t overdo it the first time or you may strain a muscle or two.
For gardening and yard work to actually provide a beneficial workout, you must garden for at least 30 minutes a day. Try including a variety of activities in your routine so that you use various muscle groups. Moderately strenuous activities are best.
If you’re busy and don’t garden for 30 minutes at a time, not to worry. Even if you perform a few gardening and yard care tasks throughout the day, you’ll benefit. Dr. William Haskell, professor of medicine at the Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention states that 10 minutes of moderate exercise, 3 times a day, can give you a similar amount of exercise as an extended 30 minutes program.
You have to be doing something like raking, spreading compost, etc. to make these short spurts work, though. Haskell also says that ideally you should perform regular aerobic activity to maximize these benefits. Regular aerobic activity will overall work to strengthen your heart and lungs.
In the winter, you may wonder what kinds of activities you can do in the yard and garden to keep up a level of activity. Try shoveling snow, turning the compost pile, or having a small collection of houseplants that you can weed, etc.
Calories Burned During Specific Gardening Activities
Here, we’ve listed some statistics related to how many calories you can expect to burn during specific gardening and yard care activities. Source: Iowa State University.
• Iowa State University claims that women in general can burn up to 300 calories with an hour of moderately strenuous gardening activities like cultivating or using a spade. Men typically burn around 400 calories per hour while doing these activities.
• Raking is another good activity and burns a little less calories that using a cultivator or a spade. This provides some exercise for your legs, back, and arms as well. The reason is that the ground is providing resistance and thus, your muscles work hard to move the earth.
• Using a lawn mower is also an excellent workout. However, not all mowers will give you the same kind of exercise. Naturally, we recommend manual reel mowers to maximize the amount of calories you burn. If you use a reel mower, women can burn almost 400 calories an hour, while men burn almost 500. A power mower will reduce this to around 250 calories for women and 350 for men. The folks from the National Gardening Magazine also recommend using a reel mower instead of a power mower. In addition to reel mowers, if you use other manual tools in the garden, like a rake instead of a leaf blower, you’ll be better off.
• Planting transplants including trees, shrubs, etc. work out to 250 calories burned for women, and 350 for me. This activity will also provide your arms some exercise. If you’re planting trees and shrubs, you can expect to be digging holes, so that translates to a pretty decent upper body workout.
• Weeding is a necessary chore in the garden. Some people hate to weed, but if you consider that you’re exercising while you weed, you can think of as replacing a trip to the gym. Weeding burns as least as many calories as mowing the lawn with a power mower.
• Some of the best gardening activities you can do to both work muscles and burn calories are to move compost, rake, dig holes for transplanting, etc.