Get Your Exercise in the Garden

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It’s that time of year when many of us pause and contemplate improvements we want to make in our finances or our health and fitness. Getting more physically fit is always at the top of my list, but this year I’m taking a different approach. In addition to visiting the gym, I’m heading to my garden.

Exercise in the Garden

That’s right. My garden. My personal outdoor gym. Research shows that gardening can provide much of the same exercise opportunities that I can get at a typical gym. Think of your shovel, rake, wheelbarrow and push mower as your exercise equipment. Lifting a gallon sprinkling can full of water in each hand is equal to hefting eight-pound dumbbells.

As I researched this topic, I was pleased to learn that 45 minutes of steady gardening equals 30 minutes of aerobics. Don’t believe me? Check out the calories you can burn per hour with different gardening tasks, as compared to common exercises:

Calories burned per hour/activity
215/leisure walking
230/brisk walking
245/moderate swimming
275/hand-trimming shrubs
370/push mowing

For me, it is easy to put 45 minutes or longer of work into my garden because it is a labor of love and I forget about the exercise I’m actually doing. Weeding, pruning, mowing, and even walking around the yard can increase your heart rate and tone your body.

Ask medical doctors about the best type of exercise and they will recommend activities that build your overall endurance, flexibility and strength. Yet, many people don’t stop to think about how gardening gives all major muscle groups a good workout, including your legs, arms, buttocks, stomach, neck and back.

Whether it comes in the form of digging up soil, setting plants or mowing your lawn, exercise is taking place. Studies have shown that gardening, when practiced on a regular basis, can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It may even play a role in preventing diabetes, heart disease, depression and osteoporosis. Even your brain gets a workout as you plan your garden designs.

Studies also show that gardening is a great stress buster, too. Gardeners exhibit brain waves similar to those demonstrated by people who meditate. Performing various garden activities provides a break from life’s day-to-day irritants, and those who practice gardening benefit from improved physical health, while having a beautiful landscape to show for their efforts.

If landscaping or flowers aren’t your thing, think of the lovely vegetables and fruits that gardening can provide. They’re healthful to grow and healthful to eat as well – not to mention delicious.

Need more quality time with your children? Writer and futurist Richard Louv believes gardening is extremely healthy for kids, who he says are suffering from “nature deficit disorder.” NDD, Louv says, is exhibited by children who spend too much time indoors. Symptoms are depression, obesity and attention deficit.

My kids love to garden with me, and I get a kick out of their enthusiasm for even the smallest of tasks. And I have to admit, just as it does for my children, gardening boosts my self-esteem and gives me a sense of accomplishment equal to or greater than any workout at the gym.

This year as you write out your resolutions, resolve to spend more time outdoors in your garden. Doing so will help improve more than just your landscape.

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