Gardening As Exercise

A Double-Rewarding Workout

A beautiful yard flowing with flowers or a hearty vegetable garden can double as a comprehensive gym. Those who love to garden actually appreciate the tiredness of certain muscle groups at the end of a day’s work. They see the benefits of their efforts with each satisfying gaze at their landscape. An added bonus to this strenuous workout is that it requires no membership fee or transportation cost. Exercising begins with a quick step out the door and a simple stretching routine.

Consider this: Gardening turns any yard or garden into the equivalent of a running track. Walking behind and pushing a lawn mower is similar to treadmill activity. Raking mimics a rowing machine. Turning compost even resembles the lifting of weights. Other useful exercise machines include post-hole diggers, shovels, trowels and wheelbarrows.

“If you garden on a regular basis, you’re probably getting a healthy dose of exercise,” writes Dan Hickey, a former editor of National Gardening. “Gardening uses all of the major muscle groups—the muscles that do most of the calorie burning.” For instance, the typical calories burned in 30 minutes of digging, spading or tilling is slightly more than 200. 

In order to maximize calorie consumption and fitness benefits from gardening, Jeff Restuccio, author of Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way, recommends employing “…simple techniques, such as bending your knees while raking, or placing a crate that requires you to step up and down as you move from one flower bed to the next.” This Tennessee-based author and martial arts expert also advises using exaggerated movements to achieve maximum range of motion.

Raking mimics a rowing machine. Turning compost
even resembles the lifting of weights. Other useful
exercise machines include post-hole diggers, shovels,
trowels and wheelbarrows.

The complete range of benefits from gardening, according to Dr. William Haskell, professor of medicine at Stanford University, extends to improving overall health, including lowering blood pressure and slowing osteoporosis, which he says is, “all good  news for gardeners.”

More support for the physical benefits from gardening comes from research at Virginia Tech, headed by Diane Relf, an environmental horticulture specialist. Her studies show that yard work is much more than a valuable hobby or a way to have fresh vegetables for salads. “Gardening is moderate, and sometimes strenuous, exercise that incorporates many important elements of accepted regimes, such as stretching, repetition, movement and resistance principles, [all] while expending calories.” Citing more good news, she adds, “Unlike many exercise options, you can become involved with what you are doing and still take time to smell the roses.”

Keeping roses and other green, growing plants in good health proves to be a consistently effective way to divert the mind from stressful issues and ease into a state of mental relaxation. Rewards include a healthier life and lovelier appearance for the gardener, as well as the garden.


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