Exercise with results you can see, feel and serve at your table.
Anybody who thinks gardening is for wimps, has never planted, tended and harvested a vegetable garden. Before you discount the value of gardening as exercise, think about the variety of activities that are incorporated into gardening and lawn care: digging, stretching to weed or pick vegetables, trimming overgrown branches or shrubs, hoeing, planting, watering, mowing, raking, and turning a compost pile. A garden also requires ongoing attention. Unlike the gym, if you neglect the garden, there are almost immediate consequences. Let’s face it, your garden needs you, and if you learn to appreciate the benefits to your mind and body provided by the act of gardening, you need your garden.
Gardening is a great way to exercise because it involves many elements of traditional exercise routines while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors and create something tangible that can be appreciated throughout the growing season. Whether you prefer to concentrate on the beauty and variety of a flower garden, want to add fresh produce to the family diet, just want to keep your lawn healthy and well-tended or a combination of all three, gardening and yard care are an excellent way to do something calming, creative and fun while you work various muscle groups and get a moderate level of cardiovascular exercise as well.
The truly great thing about gardening for exercise, is that 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. And, research shows that gardening for 30-45 minutes several days a week has significant health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as contributing to healthier bones, muscles and joints. Elements of gardening such as digging, weeding, trimming shrubs and mowing the lawn can require the same energy requirements as other physical exercise activities such as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics.
Before you get started. If you are a beginner to gardening or if you haven’t gardened for a while, check with your doctor before beginning this or any strenuous exercise. Listen to your body and adjust your activities according to your abilities. If a particular activity is extremely difficult or causes discomfort, don’t continue it. It’s normal to feel fatigued after exercising. As you gain strength, flexibility and endurance, the fatigue will decrease.
Always begin any physical activity with an adequate warm-up. Try taking a brisk, 5-minute walk and doing some stretches before getting started. Stretching will prepare your muscles for the task at hand before you jump in, and it will help prevent soreness and injury.
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.
How many calories can you burn?
In an article published by Horticulture & Home Pest News, from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, horticulture specialist Sherry Rindels, cites the number of calories that may be burned during some common gardening and lawn care activities. She advises that as with most exercise programs, the activity must be maintained for a period of at least 30 minutes to be beneficial.
Digging and spading in the garden gives a moderate to heavy intensity workout. It involves muscles in the upper body, back and legs. Women doing this activity burn around 150 calories in a 30-minute period, men burn around 197. This activity improves muscle strength and endurance.
Weeding the flowerbeds and vegetable garden gives the legs, hips, buttocks, and hamstrings a moderate workout if you stoop while you weed. Women burn 138 calories every 30 minutes, men burn 181.
Mowing the lawn is also a good workout. Of course it depends on what type of mower. Mowing with a push reel mower gives a high intensity workout involving the whole body. Women burn 181calories in 30 minutes, men burn 236. Mowing with a rotary power mower gives the whole body a moderate workout. Women burn 135 calories in 30 minutes, men burn 177.
Raking the yard, though it seems like a lot of work, provides a moderate or light workout of the arms, shoulders, back, hamstrings, and buttocks. Women burn 120 calories every 30 minutes, men 157.
Planting transplants, shrubs, and trees gives the whole body a moderate workout. Women burn 135 calories every 30 minutes, men burn 177. Trimming and pruning of trees and shrubs also can keep you in shape. Your hands, forearms, shoulders, and upper back receive a moderate workout. Women burn 135 calories and men burn 177 calories every 30 minutes.
Not only does gardening help you physically, but it can provide the satisfaction of a beautiful lawn to look at or fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy at your dinner table. So as the gardening season approaches, consider your gardening time as an opportunity to get a healthier, more beautiful garden and a healthier, fitter you!
Sources: DoitYourself.com; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Clean Air Gardening.