You may have enjoyed gardening as a casual hobby over the summer, perhaps grown a few organic vegetables for your kitchen, or brightened up your backyard with a selection of flowers – but I bet you didn’t know that gardening ranks right up there with conventional exercise (bicycling, jogging) in terms of the benefits it has for your body!
Why is gardening considered good exercise?
Think about it, no matter the gardening task that you’re performing – trimming, weeding, harvesting, watering and so on – you are exercising all your main muscles: back, shoulders, arms, legs, and abdomen. Using these muscles on a regular basis causes them to grow, aside from the fact that the constant motion makes for solid cardio.
If you’re really hands-on with your gardening approach, you are also probably lifting bags of fertilizers, pushing manual grass trimmers, and shoveling dirt – all of this is equivalent to weightlifting in the gym. Farmers and laborers have well-developed physiques for the same reason – their work involves the exercise that we pay for in the gym.
From another perspective, when you stretch your limbs (and in some cases your whole body) to get to hard-to-reach branches that you must trim, you’re also enhancing your physical flexibility and alleviating stress accumulated from sitting inside for excessive periods of time.
Besides the physical benefits, gardening is also a great mental workout, as getting in touch with nature, sunlight and clean air have a relaxing and invigorating effect on your mind.
Here are some staple gardening tasks that can be considered as an exercise:
- Digging: Utilizing your core, shoulders, legs, arms and back in tandem, digging is one of the more demanding gardening jobs that will have you sweating and breathing in no time – exactly like a strenuous session at the gym would. If you do it regularly, you’ll start to notice the outlines of your muscles becoming clearer by the passing day!
- Hoeing: Done on tough and rocky soil, even this seemingly trivial action will utilize enough of your body’s muscular capabilities to cause them to grow.
- Raking: After you’ve cut up your lawn (possibly after a hiatus of several weeks), creating huge piles of the leaves, grass, and branches, picking them up and disposing of them, will make for some seriously tough work. Indeed, you can burn as many as 300 calories hourly with a moderately sizeable raking job.
- Sweeping: Sweeping your garden walkway of stray leaves and twigs can have your body fired up and consuming up to 200 calories an hour! To maximize your gains, be sure to perform the task in swift, smooth motions so that your muscles are used effectively, in a disciplined manner.
- Trimming: Naturally, trimming a few low-lying hedges with an electric machine won’t amount to a lot of hard work (unless you’re doing it over a large area!). I’m referring to the kind that has you stretching and, in the more extreme cases, climbing up trees to deal with tough branches. This kind of work will push your body to the limits of its endurance and makes for an excellent compound workout.
- Squatted weeding: Often, when we’re pulling out weeds we bend downwards to perform the task. With a small twist, you can turn weeding into a superb workout for your leg muscles – instead of kneeling or resting on a chair, try to squat as you pull the weeds out. Do so until your legs start burning – this indicates that your leg muscles have started to feel the strain.
- Mowing the lawn: Instead of riding your motorized mower to get the job done, get your old manual mower out of the shed and push it around the lawn to exercise several muscle groups of your body simultaneously and extensively. Make sure you’re wearing light clothes though since this one is bound to make you sweat quite a bit.
- Craftsmanship: If you’re feeling especially creative and looking to expand the aesthetics of your garden, you could try building a fixture such as a small pavilion or greenhouse. Alternatively, you could renovate your garden shed – you’ll work out and organize the storage for your gardening tools simultaneously.
- Snow blowing: If you’re worried that you won’t be able to do any of the aforementioned tasks in the winter because the ground will be covered in snow, simply take out your manual snow blower and push it across your driveway/walkway to clear it of snow. Not only will you be training your muscles, you will also be teaching your body to endure in the cold. You can find some of the best snow blowers covered here if you’re looking to get a new one.
You will agree with me now that not being able to afford or visit a gym is hardly an excuse for a poor physique if you’ve got a decent backyard. Here’s a parting tip: to get the most out of whatever gardening task you’re performing, try to exaggerate your motion and take deep breaths while you do it. You could theoretically burn as much as 500 calories when the normal cap for gardening activity is between 100 and 200 calories!