Gardening as Exercise

Chances are when you look out a window you’ll see more concrete than green. Our modern world celebrates architectural achievement at the expense of nature and professional success at the expense of physical activity. It’s safe to say we’ve lost our primal connection to nature, a connection that keeps our mental and physical faculties primed. Gardening is a simple way to reconnect to the earth. Not only does gardening help relieve stress and tension, deliver better nutrition, and boost brain health, but, according to recent research, it also counts as exercise!

flowersGardening: A Moderate-to-Intense Exercise

In its 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the Centers for Disease Control classified gardening as a moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health seems to back up this assessment. Researchers studied 198 men and women who took part in community gardening projects, as well as their siblings and neighbors who did no gardening. The gardeners had lower body mass index (BMI) than the non-gardeners (both siblings and neighbors). Male gardeners were 62% less likely to be overweight, and female gardeners were 46% less likely to battle with obesity.

Korean researchers recently studied how gardening as exercise can affect the physical well-being of children. The HortTechnology study used 10 gardening tasks for the assessment. They found that weeding, mulching, sowing seeds, harvesting, planting, mixing growing medium, and hoeing were all moderate physical activities, while digging and raking counted as intense exercise.

An hour of gardening may have you stretching, lifting 40-pound bags of soil, mowing the lawn, stirring compost, raking leaves, digging holes, sowing seeds, and planting—and in that hour you can burn nearly 400 calories depending on the extent of the activity and your weight and metabolism.

Gardening: Full-Body Functional Movement

Gardening gets you outside so you can soak in some essential vitamin D from the sun’s rays. It may not feel like exercise, but gardening works your body with functional movements. You stretch, you kneel, you squat, you lift…and each of these full-body movements works to strengthen and tone your muscles and keep you physically fit. No barbells, kettlebells, or weights required!

With that said, it’s important to stay aware of your body’s needs. When lifting at the gym, it’s easy to stay focused on proper alignment and safety. When gardening as exercise, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re placing physical demands on your body and need to be cautious. Practice proper spinal alignment at all times, and be careful of the pressure you put on sensitive areas like the knees and back.

If the gardening bug has yet to bite, start small. Plant easy-to-grow vegetables like carrots, spinach, and green beans and see how you do. What are you waiting for? Go and get those hands dirty. Mother Earth is waiting…