National Fitness Day is a chance to highlight the role physical activity plays across the UK. Gardening is right up there as a top physical activity which helps give our bodies a complete workout. Through gardening tasks, we improve the quality of our overall fitness and cardio levels and see increases in our strength, stamina and flexibility. Gardening plays a hugely important role in the lives of so many to help lead healthier, active lifestyles.
Gardening is considered moderate-intensity exercise. You can burn around 300 calories doing one hour of light gardening like pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow around, which is more calories burned than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.
Unlike many everyday physical activities which only involve the arms, gardening uses the whole body and calls on all the major muscles in the back, legs and abdominal area.
Gardening tasks like digging holes, carrying watering cans and pulling weeds use muscle groups all over the body and provide a good general work out in an outdoor setting. Constantly bending down and stretching up when you are gardening helps keep joints supple. Lifting bags of grass cuttings or compost can produce benefits akin to weight training. Raking up leaves works wonders for upper body strength and makes you sweat. Stretching, pushing, pulling, digging and lifting will work multiple muscles at one time, strengthening those muscles as well as joints and bones.
A study carried out by scientists from Kansas State University found that regular energetic gardening provides the same positive health benefits as exercise programmes like jogging or swimming. The best thing about gardening is that unlike an hour on treadmill, it doesn’t feel like exercise and the study points to the fact that adults are less likely to give up compared with conventional exercise routines because they found gardening more interesting with different tasks to perform as the seasons changed. Those that choose gardening as their exercise are more likely to exercise 40-50 minutes longer on average than those that choose activities like walking or biking.
Plan your gardening time to include and alternate between, a variety of movements which will vary the muscles used and offer you a balanced workout. Most gardeners will naturally vary activities anyway as part of the routine garden jobs which need doing. To make the most of your gardening for health benefits, try to:
- Incorporate garden tasks such as raking, mowing, weeding, hoeing, wheeling wheelbarrows, pushing a lawnmower and cutting hedges.
- Alternate light and heavy activities such as digging, pruning, planting and watering.
- Exaggerate movements to increase range of motion.
- Move with the tool, don’t over-stretch if you cannot comfortably reach something.
- Switch hands and change stance to use muscles on both sides of the body.
- Use manual rather than electric tools to increase the intensity of the workout.
- Do a full range of activities which will incorporate endurance, flexibility, dexterity, and strengthening tasks.
Gardening is so good for your physical health giving you an all-over, full body workout but it is also the perfect way to get your vitamin D sunshine boost, aid your nighttime sleep, boost your self-esteem, reduce your stress levels whilst fulfilling your exercise quota at the same time – and we all love a bit of multi-tasking! There is also the added benefit that we can eat what we grow or sit back and enjoy the pleasures of all that physical activity.
This year, on National Fitness Day, be inspired to grab those tools and head out to your outside gym for an all-over workout and plenty of fresh air!