The start of spring and the return of warm weather has many people kick-starting their exercise routines. The elliptical machines at the gym—heavily neglected during the winter months—are now in heavy use; greenways and bike lanes are crowded with people eager to get back in shape before the dreaded “swimsuit season”; and, after a couple months of hibernation, our yards and gardens are getting some much needed TLC. Luckily, for those whose spring goals involve getting fit and having a beautiful lawn and landscape, gardening and exercise often go hand in hand. In fact, hard-working gardeners may find themselves accomplishing a surprising number of fitness goals while they care for their plants. Here’s how:
The Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening has long been known to improve mental health by giving gardeners a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Growing your own produce is therapeutic and relaxing, but it also has numerous health benefits. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, gardening is a moderate intensity level physical activity that, when done for at least 2.5 hours every week, can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, stroke, cancer, and other ailments.
Gardening is a full-body workout that utilizes muscles in the arms, legs, and back. By incorporating bending, squatting, digging, pulling, and lifting into your gardening routine, you are stretching and exercising all the main muscles in your body. This creates a more holistic, comprehensive workout. An hour of gardening can burn just as many calories as an hour in the gym, depending on how strenuous your gardening routine is. For a more serious workout, concentrate on more intense activities like pruning, weed pulling, shoveling, aerating, and mowing.
Gardening can also help relieve stress and boost mood. Stress causes heart attacks, headaches, nausea, and can worsen other kinds of disease. Though all types of exercise have been proven to reduce stress, gardening is thought to be especially effective because it gives a sense of accomplishment and value to gardeners. Gardening doesn’t exactly feel like exercise, and that’s precisely what makes it so good for you.
For those who grow produce gardens, the health benefits of gardening extend out of the dirt and into the kitchen. Home grown food is nutritious, free of harmful chemicals and pesticides, and it usually tastes much better than the produce they sell at the store. Plus, after you finish picking your yields, you’ll have an excuse to eat fresh veggies for weeks to come. Nobody wants to waste good food they worked hard to grow, even if that means opting for green beans over ice cream. Whether we like it or not, gardening forces us to think more consciously about what we’re putting in our bodies and how it stands to benefit us. It is, in and of itself, an exercise in health. If you haven’t incorporated it into your workout routine yet, you might want to give it a try.