Is Gardening A Good Way to Exercise?

By Joyce Florance

With the advent of warmer weather in March and April, the first things I start to notice are weeds in my flowerbeds. I know that very soon I will have to start my daily gardening tasks if I want to keep my yard looking nice throughout the spring and summer.

I am glad there are many fitness related and health benefits to gardening, so I know I am accomplishing more than working toward a beautiful yard.

Because gardening can be strenuous at times, I am tempted to skip my strength workout, but gardening should never be a substitute for your cardiovascular, strength or flexibility training. Rather, it is an excellent complement.

  • For good health we need to expend at least 2000 calories weekly. Gardening will not raise your heart rate into your target zone for the recommended 20 minutes, but it will help you to burn calories. Some gardening tasks can burn up to 300 calories an hour. Garden energetically, and remember to warm up and stretch before you start.
  • Gardening can ease stress and help improve depression symptoms. Studies have shown we are constantly engaged leading to “attention fatigue.” Being outside and the repetitive soothing nature of garden tasks can replenish us through an effortless form of attention that we use to enjoy nature.
  • Gardening increases flexibility because many of the tasks like reaching for weeds, bending and extending, all require stretching.
  • Gardening increases strength and strengthens joints and ligaments. Tasks like pushing a wheelbarrow, lifting, and shoveling work all the major muscle groups.
  • Anyone bored with workout routines will be less likely to forsake gardening because of the variety of activities that gardening provides each day and each season. In this sense gardening increases adherence.
  • Some studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables and people who grow their own food tend to be healthier.

Check with your physician before engaging in any strenuous activity, especially if you have health problems or you are over 65 years of age. And, don’t abandon your regular walk, bike or swim in favor of yard work. Remember that gardening can offer some additional benefits. Besides the health benefits, the satisfaction we feel from beautiful flowers or fresh vegetables can’t be beat.


Fitness Tip: Golf, bowling, basketball and racketball are all excellent recreational activities, but they should never substitute for your regular three to four exercise routines each week. To improve your performance in these sports remember to include exercise where you sustain for 20 to 30 minutes without stopping with your heart rate elevated, strength activity with weights or machines and flexibility training.