Gardening Cardio – Gardening Heals

Gardens are a delightful productive place to have a great mind/body workout.

Great for a cardio workout                 move daily

Empowered self healing is all about creating a personal healthy lifestyle. Observing the growth of plants and their healing power demonstrates healing growth. And where better to learn that concept but in the garden. 

Create a unique healing practice - using growing plants as the way. Click To Tweet
Gardening is a useful workout

Gardening has such great benefits that there is now a National Gardening Exercise Day on June 6. The event uses the hashtag #GardeningExerciseDay for social media. 

Gardeners know gardening exercise is possible all year long, both in and outside. Gardening Exercise Day reminds us to move, burn off calories, and have fun doing it. The movement that takes place during gardening is the way our bodies were designed to exercise.

Do you know why people throw their backs out while doing yard chores?

It is because they are not connected to their bodies.

It is not the hard work of gardening that causes issues, but the fact we sit all the time. We need to move, and as with all exercise, we need to use the proper form. 

Experts say the various activities and tasks of gardening require people to use all of the major muscle groups. In addition, strenuous gardening activities such as raking, hoeing, and digging are both aerobic and muscle strengthening.

Gardening makes a huge cardio difference. 

Mindful Movement is good for the body.

According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, gardening is an ideal form of exercise because it combines three types of fitness: strength, endurance, and flexibility. Bending and stretching to pull weeds or reaching high safely provides natural flexibility. It takes strength to dig compost or carry mulch. 

A day working in the yard takes a surprising amount of cardio endurance which cultivates a healthier heart. Since gardening is a very physical activity, it naturally helps strengthen the heart, build endurance, and increase stamina, which makes a difference to your overall health. 

healing sunlightThere’s no excuse in places with excellent year-round weather not to get outside 30 to 60 minutes three times a week. With more hours of sunshine after work, this is something you can do easily. Early mornings are also ideal for getting outside (and good if you want to avoid sun exposure).

 It gets you moving

Instead of sitting in fact National Gardening Exercise Day recognizes the important physical health benefits of gardening. 

To live a healthy life we all need to move. Moving in an enjoyable way is a great strategy for staying healthy, especially for those who are too attached to their desks. Gardening usually forces you to get outside (although it is also possible to do indoors) and dig around in the dirt, which will do wonders for your body. Sixty minutes of steady gardening work involving activities like pruning, planting, composting, weeding, digging, mulching, carrying materials, is the equivalent of walking five miles, or 10,000 steps. watering

Gardening is an excellent form of functional exercise that incorporates many of the elements of a moderate to intense fitness routine. Stretching, pushing, pulling and lifting incorporate multiple muscles at one time and improve the quality of your overall fitness level.

Warm-up and cool downstretching

As with most exercises you should always remember to warm up first and cool down afterward. This means gently stretching and moving your muscles to start off with. Suddenly moving into full exercise without building up first will cause problems such as stiffness and cramps. Ease yourself into picking up heavy objects. Then after exercise, the cooldown is basically gently moving the muscles and joints to stretch and relax, as your body returns to its normal pace.

Mindful Movement

After a weekend of planting and moving water in my garden in SoCal, in which I did not warm-up or cool down I had to treat some sore muscles with hot and cold compresses. But I accomplished something tangible, not just minutes on a treadmill. I will truly reap the benefits from my efforts when I harvest an abundance of crops.

woman holding headHealing Osteoporosis

Our bones are improved by the natural movements of gardening. A recent scientific study found that women who engaged in gardening activities and work in the yard had much lower rates of osteoporosis than even swimmers and joggers. Carrying soil and compost, pulling weeds, digging holes, and bending over to plant tend to keep osteoporosis from attacking your body. Plus the mental satisfaction may also help ward off the stress that leads to bone and muscle problems.

finger Helps manage diabetes

One factor in managing diabetes is getting enough movement. Some say motion is lotion. Gardening can provide at least 150 minutes per week of well-needed exercise, especially for those who have sedentary jobs.

running by waterCalorie Workout

Everyday gardening will burn 300 calories per hour, the same as walking, golfing, or other low-impact exercises. So get off the couch and burn calories while you tend the garden that produces nutritious, low-fat food. If you get into heavy yard work, you can double the calorie burn, which is as good as running, cycling, or strenuous interval training.

Gardeners move around a lot with weeding and watering. Meet Fitbit goals or all the other various apps by moving in the garden. By composting too and add a little to your workout with a walk through the forest, park or neighborhood.

You rest better afterward – go deeply into sleep.Woman facedown on bed
A less known physical benefit of gardening is the calming rest. Studies with those who have problems with anxiety and forgetfulness show that gardening promotes better sleep and rest as well as boosting physical stamina.

soil on mushroomPlants and soil Fungi and microbes

 

This is all great – but there’s something even more important to me. Exposure to plants, soil, and nature is good for your mental health too. Spending time outside in nature with natural microbes reduces stress. 

Sunshine in healing – Vitamin D

We can not live healthy lives inside all the time. Humans naturally create vitamin D and exposure to sunshine (safely, with sunscreen on) helps regulate your mood and provides vitamin D. 

Man and woman kissing in publicImproves sexual function.
Studies show that even moderate exercise, the kind you get while gardening, can improve sexual function. You probably missed out on National Naked Gardening Day in May, but consider it for next year if you can stay safe from sunburn, insects, and arrest. But if you manage to get out there and celebrate with your partner you’ll both benefit!

Gardening is good for The Mind as well as The Body.

inhale renewalStress Reduction

If you suffer from stress-related physical problems, try gardening as a fun and relaxing way to nourish the soul and the body. It’s difficult to find time to relax and escape from the pressures of life. As you step into the garden, the peace and calm of nature wash over you and helps reduce stress while the physical exertion of gardening helps lower blood pressure. I know I feel the stress melting away as soon as I start digging in the dirt. 

P3Reduces depression and anxiety

Gardening can help with depression. Immersing yourself in nature is a natural relaxer and helps boost those endorphins, which help you feel better. And there’s nothing like being at one with nature to help create a calming, relaxed state of mind while you let go of the pressures and anxiety of everyday life.  You become more grounded, centered and relaxed.

man with flowers on grassGardening is a Focus or Mindfulness Practice 


With gardening comes the opportunity to focus on a task and enjoy its effortless ability to engage our attention. Researchers have shown the human capacity for particularly directed attention, which is what happens when we use smartphones, email, and other electronics is limited. In the daily overwhelm of electronics we run short of this kind of attention. Then we get cranky and stressed out, and our thinking processes slow down. Gardening helps you practice focusing the mind in a way similar to meditation. When we enjoy activities in a natural environment, as gardening or nature walks, the repetitive soothing quality of these tasks helps us develop “effortless attention,” as opposed to directed attention which replenishes our brain’s energy.

balancingGardening improves flexibility, balance and sensory perception.
Gardening helps improve balance, flexibility, and sharpens your senses. The movements, sights, and smells are all part of the health benefits you gain while you tend your patch of paradise.

many colorsImproves creativity
The fresh air, unplugging from technology, and the focus required all open the door for more creativity. Gardening helps you connect with the earth, your body, mind, emotions, and spirit, which allows space for creative thoughts to flow.

smiling with plantsGardeners learn daily

I have gardened all my life and I am still learning and some life lessons I have learned from gardening including The world is abundant and life is unstoppable. Growth takes time. Nature is therapeutic. Observe and learn what your microclimate is. The right plant in the right plant thrives. A healthy environment leads to thriving. Nourishment needs to be continuous. Never ever ever give up.

Whether your purpose in gardening is to bring beauty into your life or to eat and become healthier, being outdoors and creating from nature’s bounty can work wonders in your life. 

Each type of gardening is different.

Tower gardening, hydroponic gardening, raised bed gardening, and many more types can give you the mental and physical boost you need to keep your health in check while also providing many hours of fun and relaxation to your life. 

Check with a local master gardener or an expert at your local nursery about how you can create as much or as little gardening activity in your life as you want and/or need. If you dread going to the gym or are afraid that running and jogging might be harmful to your body, gardening is a great exercise to begin a journey that will provide physical wellness.

National Gardening Exercise Day recognizes the important physical health benefits of gardening

home grownGrow your own Fresh Nutritious Food

We are what we eat and growing your own fresh organic produce is another factor in gaining physical health from gardening. The more healthy changes you can make to your diet, the better you’ll feel. You can also better maintain a healthy weight by eating fresh veggies and fruits from your garden that taste better. You could also just have beautiful flowers because even if you don’t grow anything edible, AHTA studies show gardeners eat a wider variety of healthy vegetables and eat more veggies overall than non-gardeners.

growing healing plantsCommunity Gardening

So you don’t own a yard? Even a balcony or a patio can provide space to grow veggies, herbs, or flowers. Or do what I love to do and add plants to the indoor environment. If you live in an urban setting, volunteer at a community garden or a local park or donate to the park community. As a long-time New Yorker, I also advise you to go outside and to enjoy our beautiful parks, as they kept me sane for years in the concrete jungle. Try to help your local community garden, or nursing home, or school garden if you have the time and especially if you don’t have your own space. 

Consider joining a community garden. It’s a great opportunity to both create and give back to the community. For example, American Community Gardening Association is on a mission to help create, support, and grow community gardens. It can direct you to a garden in your area, or help you start one.

Easier to be consistentchecklist graphic

People who start gardening are more likely to stick with it than going to the gym. Plant care is a daily task. And people do it often because it’s fun and rewarding. It doesn’t seem like exercise. Plus, in addition to your improved physical and mental health, you beautify your surroundings and you can enjoy the flowers, fruits and vegetables you grow.

Get kids into gardening early and they’ll reap the benefits for life.
If you’ve got kids who are about to finish their school year, get them involved in a gardening project this summer. Help them develop healthy habits and skills that will last a lifetime. So put down those smartphones, pick up a shovel and get dirty! 

Lose weight        perceptive from cage

Jeffrey Restuccio, the author of Getting Fit Through Gardening, has compiled a chart that shows how many calories you burn yard exercising for 30 minutes. For instance:
Raking: 162
Weeding: 182
Mowing lawn (push mower): 243
Double digging: 344
Watering lawn or garden: 61

But like any cardio exercise, make sure you stretch out and warm up before beginning your gardening workout, and use a variety of motions at a steady pace. Jeffrey Restuccio suggests the following tips to get the most out of your gardening workout.

Use a straight back as much as possible bending at the hips. Don’t look like a cashew with a rounded back. 

Warm-up by stretching your muscles for 5 to 10 minutes before heading out to the garden. Stretch again after 15 to 20 minutes of gardening.

Mix it up. Using a variety of motions at a steady pace, perform a variety of the following moves: raking, mowing, weeding, pruning, digging. Alternate between them, every 15 minutes or so.

Bend at the knees not at the waist, especially when lifting heavy items, and use long-handled tools for raking or hoeing to avoid back strain and pain.

Cooldown by walking, picking flowers or vegetables or just enjoying the fruits of your exercise.

Gardening as sport

A recent study compared the amount of energy expended among a number of activities, including gardening. Weight watchers charted these typical gardening activities against more full-fledged exercises.

Doing this… Uses as much energy as
Watering the lawn or garden Sitting, knitting or sewing
Walking, applying fertilizer to a lawn or seeding a lawn Walking while shopping
Trimming shrubs or trees with a power cutter Walking at a moderate pace
Raking; planting seeds and shrubs Leisurely bicycling
Weeding; cultivating; trimming shrubs and trees Heavy cleaning; golf
Carrying, stacking and hauling branches Playing softball or baseball
Shoveling snow; mowing the lawn with a hand mower Aerobics or swimming

The activity meter

Ready to grab your gardening gloves? Check out the number of activity PointsPlus® values you’ll earn with 30 minutes of some classic gardening activities. 

Activity PointsPlus values
Digging and spading 1-2
Mowing the lawn with a power mower 2-3
Planting seedlings; pruning 1
Weeding 1-2
Raking 2-3
Shoveling snow 3-4

According to the Centers for Disease Control, gardening is comparable to “moderate cardiovascular exercise.” Gardening 30 to 45 minutes a day can burn 150 to 300 calories. This isn’t just standing there watering the flowers, but weeding, digging, hoeing, raking and planting. 

Finally, gardening improves the microbiome of each person. The microbiota in our environment influence the human intestine microbiome, via direct contact with soil and feces as well as via food (quality)

This summer and all year round enjoy the benefits of gardening. Take a few moments to unplug from life’s stressors and connect to Mother Nature. Working in the garden is a great way to enjoy nature and is a healthy, rewarding activity the whole family can participate in. When done regularly you’ll not only yield a beautiful, healthy garden but a healthier you.

References 

Austin EN, Johnston YA, Morgan LL. Community gardening in a senior center: A therapeutic intervention to improve the health of older adults. Therapeutic Recreation Journal. 2006;40:48–57. 

Barnicle T, Midden KS. The effects of a horticulture activity program on the psychological well-being of older people in a long-term care facility. HortTechnology. 2003;13:81–85.

Blair CK, Madan-Swain A, Locher JL, Desmond RA, de Los Santos J, Affuso O, Glover T, Smith K, Carley J, Lipsitz M, Sharma A, Krontiras H, Cantor A, Demark-Wahnefried W. Harvest for health gardening intervention feasibility study in cancer survivors. Acta Oncol. 2013 Aug;52(6):1110-8. doi: 10.3109/0284186X.2013.770165. Epub 2013 Feb 26. PMID: 23438359; PMCID: PMC3718632.

Blum, W., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S., & Keiblinger, K. M. (2019). Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?. Microorganisms, 7(9), 287. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms7090287

Hawkins JL, Smith A, Backx K, Clayton DA. Exercise intensities of gardening tasks within older adult allotment gardeners in Wales. J Aging Phys Act. 2015 Apr;23(2):161-8. doi: 10.1123/japa.2013-0171. Epub 2014 Feb 28. PMID: 24589559.

Nicklett, E. J., Anderson, L. A., & Yen, I. H. (2016). Gardening Activities and Physical Health Among Older Adults: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of applied gerontology : the official journal of the Southern Gerontological Society, 35(6), 678–690. https://doi.org/10.1177/0733464814563608

Park SA, Lee KS, Son KC. Determining exercise intensities of gardening tasks as a physical activity using metabolic equivalents in older adults. HortScience. 2011;46:1706–1710. 

Park SA, Shoemaker CA, Haub MD. A preliminary investigation on exercise intensities of gardening tasks in older adults. Perceptual & Motor Skills. 2008;107:974–980. 

Scott TL, Masser BM, Pachana NA. Positive aging benefits of home and community gardening activities: Older adults report enhanced self-esteem, productive endeavors, social engagement and exercise. SAGE Open Medicine. January 2020. doi:10.1177/2050312120901732

Wang D, MacMillan T. The benefits of gardening for older adults: A systematic review of the literature. Activities, Adaptation & Aging. 2013;37:153–181. 

For more info

Gardening information including how to’s

Home Gardening links

When to plant 

 

Learn the table bend to protect your back

A great UK based Blog 

https://www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk/plant-science/gardeners-blog/

Seed saving

Healing landscapes

 

Gardening as a daily activity

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