Editor’s note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you feel pain.


Many people have a hard time accepting the idea of ​​regular exercise, even though they know it’s good for their physical and mental health. Still, committing to a workout routine doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym or running around your neighborhood.

Gardening is a great example of a popular hobby that is accessible and can also be used as a workout.

Working in your garden or yard is a source of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in young adults, while providing low-to-moderate physical activity in older adults, according to research. The hobby is also a muscle-building activity, according to the US Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, and one of the physical activities with the lowest injury rates.

More good news: gardening just two hours a week could help boost your mood, while community gardening proliferating in communities and schools offers social benefits that can alleviate stress and help combat isolation and even dementia. , according to studies.

With all these benefits, gardening for fitness will be a trend this year, predicts Rishi Mandal, San Francisco-based co-founder and CEO of fitness coaching app Future. “Our clients at Future have already asked their trainers to add gardening and landscaping activities to their routines,” Mandal said, “because it’s easy to access, fits into their style of life and offers meditative benefits”.

This demand matches the general interest he sees among clients for less intensive fitness routines that are accessible and suitable for an active lifestyle.

Gardening works all major muscle groups, such as the arms, legs, shoulders, back and abdomen, Mandal said. The activity also improves mobility, helps build endurance, and is a comparable workout to walking or Pilates.

Everything needed for digging, planting, mowing, raking and weeding also burns calories. A 154-pound person burns an average of 330 calories per hour through gardening, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such activity is similar to what that same person would burn playing golf or dancing.

Nashville’s Tom Adkinson has long been on board with the notion of gardening to stay in shape. The 72-year-old has three gardens, which he mainly uses to grow tomatoes, sweet peppers and okra. The work varies in intensity during the growing season.

“Every year I turn the soil by hand,” Adkinson said, “and I take it seriously.”

The hours Adkinson spends planting the tomatoes and then watering and weeding the three gardens involve a lot of bending and stretching, which he likens to practicing yoga in the garden.

Just like with traditional exercises, Adkinson warms up beforehand by doing various stretches. That’s wise, said Christine Zellers, assistant professor of family and community health sciences at Rutgers University.

“While gardening may not seem strenuous, using the body in new ways can make you stiff if you don’t work up to the move and get ready by loosening up a bit,” said Zellers, who teaches at Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape. May County, New Jersey.

In addition to stretching, taking a short walk before you start gardening can also serve as a warm-up. When working in your garden or yard, it’s important to bend your knees to lift heavy objects, she said, and to pace yourself if you’re new.

Just as a new runner would slowly rack up the miles before tackling a marathon, new gardeners should start with short sessions, gradually increasing the time and intensity spent in their gardens.

Once you’ve gained some experience working in your garden or yard, you can speed things up for more challenges. If you bought a dish of flowers, bring them one at a time to the garden. When it’s time to mow the lawn, increase the pace of your mowing or switch to a push mower. For a strength workout, fill two large watering cans, then carry them around your garden to water the plants.

“Gardening can provide a sense of accomplishment and reward, in addition to movement, doing something with your hands that is fulfilling, like feeding your family or making your garden beautiful,” Zellers said.

For Adkinson, one of the greatest benefits of gardening as exercise is the tangible rewards he receives for his efforts. “Getting fresh tomatoes and fresh okra through the fall is way better than hitting the gym,” Adkinson said. “There really is nothing better than your own sliced ​​tomato for a sandwich.”

Melanie Radzicki McManus is a freelance writer specializing in hiking, travel, and fitness.

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