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Does Gardening Really Count As Exercise?

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Gardening Exercise

It seems to me that gardening is one of the best ways of exercising, especially if you do it daily and work on your garden a little bit every day. Laura Bennet from Humid Garden shares her thoughts on gardening and exercising with EmaxHealth readers.


As most know, gardening is a great way to begin the day. Being able to be outside and find peace of mind in nature helps you to relax in a hectic world. In recent years, multiple studies have found that gardening also has health benefits.

Perhaps you are already a gardener or you want to get started. Learning whether gardening really counts as an exercise will help you feel motivated to get down in the dirt. The greatest thing about this sort of exercise is that even when you have finished gardening for the day, the garden grows in your absence creating new life ready for you to cultivate the next day.

You may think that if gardening counts as an exercise, that it barely counts. That's only true if you stick solely to mechanized help such as a chipper shredder or riding lawn mower. A lot of work can be done manually and can be enjoyable. According to the University of Virginia gardening as an exercise is similar to walking or bicycling.

Benefits of this kind of activity become apparent around 30-45 minutes of movement according to The National Institute of Health. If you can't go out for that long, it is possible to work in your garden for 8-minute intervals that add up to 30-45 minutes and still receive health benefits. If you want to use this method you can take advantage of the natural sun cycle and go out when it is the coolest to prevent possible sunburns and heat exhaustion.

Why Gardening is Good Exercise?
The reason that gardening is a good gentle exercise is that it involves all major muscle groups of the body such as your legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back, and abdomen. When gardening for long stretches of time multiple times a week you will build your strength up and burn calories.

It does differ from walking and bicycling in that gardening is not as stressful on you body and will cause less repetitive movement injuries than its counterparts. One way to maximize your time gardening is to use the entire range of motion afforded by each activity. If you usually lead with your left foot for certain activities than changing it up and switch to a right dominant stance to get more out of it.

Besides building strength you are also constantly stretching your muscles as well. Think of the times you bend over to pick weeds or the body movements involved in raking up leaves. These are not stagnant activities. If you are interested in strong bones and joints you will be happy to know that a lot of the work you do, and maybe resent a bit, is actually resistance training that will benefit you. So rather than grumble at the idea of having to push around a wheelbarrow or lift large heavy bags of mulch, imagine the strength you will be building in the process.

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How Can Gardening Help Me
If your aim is to lose weight and you would like to use gardening as a tool in your journey than considering that in order to lose your desired amount of weight that you will have to burn more calories than you consume. Different gardening activities burn different amounts of calories but those numbers also differ depending on the individual as well.

A study done by Iowa State University shows that digging holes burns 197 calories if you are a man and 150 calories if you are a woman. Planting burns 177 calories for men and 135 for women. Weeding burns 157 calories for men and 156 for women. Turning a compost pile burns 250-300 calories per half hour, compost is an excellent replacement for fertilizers as well.

As with all exercises, stretch out a little before you begin to garden too -prevent soreness. Pay constant attention to how your muscles are feeling to avoid over exertion. Once you begin, go slow if you’re not used to this type of exercise yet.

Try gardening over strenuous activity or worse yet, nothing. Proper body mechanics will help you not to harm yourself as well. If you must lift something heavy for example use your legs to lift not your back. You don’t have to weed continuously for one hour, throw in different gardening tasks to get a variety of muscles involved.

How Can I Get Started on Gardening
If you want to use gardening as a way to be healthy here's how you can get started. Begin by creating a small bed and choose something you would like to garden. If you don’t have the space to create a bed you can try planting in small pots or containers. Frequently change up activities, take breaks, and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated.

To keep it a healthy activity try to stay away from using poisons to fight bugs or weeds as you will be spending a lot of time breathing it in. Of course, there may be some activities that are too much for your body to handle. Being healthy does not involve hurting yourself.

Time and again, studies have shown that gardening is a great choice for moderate exercise and is best for those who want to begin exercising. The health benefits are numerous and gardening is used as a stress reliever as well. Remember to stay safe in the process and not to lose the joys of cultivating new life. If you have enjoyed this article, let us know in the comments section. Share it as well in social media.

Laura Bennet is a graduate of Horticulture and blogs at HumidGarden.com