Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Gardening is Exercise

by Dan Hickey

I love to garden on Sundays, a day that my wife prefers to hike, bike, or take long walks. Often I do both. I garden in the morning, spend the afternoon with her, and return to my garden chores later in the day.

On many Sunday nights, I slump on the couch exhausted, wondering how to drag myself to bed. "I'm so tired," I groan, feeling the weary muscles in my back, arms, shoulders, and legs. "No wonder — you've been exercising all day," my wife replies.

I think back on my day. Exercising all day? No, I wasn't exercising. I was gardening for a good part of it.

While chores such as hauling topsoil, weeding, mowing, and raking exhaust my legs, arms, and shoulders, to think of it as exercise seems laughable. After all, I enjoy gardening, and it's free. Isn't fitness supposed to cost money? Don't I need to go to a gym? Well, what my body — but not my brain — knew all along was that 45 minutes of gardening burns as many calories as 30 minutes of aerobics.

Gardening is the world's best-kept exercise secret, as I found out (albeit the hard way). But that's changing. Recent medical studies have documented what backyard enthusiasts have known for years: gardening is good for us.

It's taken me almost half my life to discover a fabulous gym outside my door. Turning compost is essentially lifting weights. Raking is like using a rowing machine. Pushing the mower is similar to walking on a treadmill. Our exercise machines are post-hole diggers, shovels, rakes, push mowers, and wheelbarrows. Our running track is the yard and garden.

If you garden on a regular basis, you're probably getting a healthy dose of exercise. By following the simple guidelines outlined here, you'll ensure that you're getting the maximum health benefits. As with any exercise program, beginning gardeners should start slowly and build up endurance. If you haven't been exercising at all, see a doctor before starting. Also, veterans and beginners alike benefit from simple stretching routines before gardening.

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