Fitness Articles

Reap the Benefits of Gardening

Burn Serious Calories and Prevent Cancer

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Bend, twist, reach, and pull.

While this may sound like an intensive aerobics class, these are actually movements you do while working in the garden. Researchers estimate that gardening burns an average of 300 calories per hour, while heavy yard work can burn more than 600 calories per hour! Engaging in regular physical activity like gardening is also an excellent way to lower your risk of some cancers.

Here’s the Dirt
Gardening is an ideal form of exercise because it combines three important types of physical activity: strength, endurance and flexibility.

Spending time in a garden is also believed by many to have physical and emotional healing effects. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, gardening can benefit people who are recovering from physical illness by retraining their muscles and improving coordination, balance, and strength. In addition, simply spending time in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and relieves muscle tension.

But the cancer-protective benefits of gardening don’t end there. Studies show that gardeners eat a wider variety of vegetables (rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals), and have a higher overall intake of vegetables than non-gardeners.

The Old-Fashioned Way Is Better
To reap the maximum health benefit from your gardening, labor intensively. Turn off your leaf blower and pick up a rake. Use manual clippers, trimmers and lawnmowers if possible.

Try to stick to a regular "garden exercise" routine. Rather than saving up your outdoor work for one marathon weekend session, schedule at least 30-60 minutes of gardening two or three times per week. If you’re away from home during the day, early mornings and evenings are ideal
gardening times.

Work at a steady, constant speed, but be sure to change positions every 10 minutes or so to avoid overusing a particular muscle group. If you start by bending down to pull weeds, stand to prune the hedges next. Also alternate which side of the body you use. Pull with your right hand, then with your left.

Find a Row to Hoe
Even if you don’t own an acre, a small yard can provide ample opportunity to dig, plant, and weed. You can also look for a local garden on the American Community Garden Association’s website. Although your workout will be more limited if you garden on a balcony or patio, you can harvest a good crop of nutritious vegetables in a space as small as 16 square feet.

After your physician gives you the "green thumbs up," keep these tips in mind:
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About The Author

The American Institute for Cancer Research The American Institute for Cancer Research
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is a charity that has contributed more than $70 million for research on diet and cancer. AICR educates Americans how to make dietary changes to lower their cancer risk.

Member Comments

  • DONNA558
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    nt.com See video - 4/8/2011 8:59:21 AM
  • I put in a garden last year for the first time in many years, mainly to try and save money after I was laid off from work. This year I made sure that I did it again, despite being gone 12 hours a day, 5 days a week for work. I had forgotten how much better veggies taste fresh out of the garden. Plus my granddaughter would have been so disappointed if Nana didn't have peas and corn for her to pick! - 7/12/2010 1:58:52 PM
  • CHEERFUL812
    Anyone who has grown their own vegetables knows there is a big taste difference between eating something that was still growing in the garden an hour earlier and something you picked up at the market an hour earlier! - 4/22/2010 11:37:20 AM
  • Oh, I so agree with this article, gardening is almost a spiritual experience for me! Even though I have allergies the peace I get from gardening far outweighs the problems with allergies. I spent four glorious hours in our garden yesterday and plan to spend more today. You know not only do you look better and feel peaceful gardening, your garden looks heavenly with regular care. - 2/16/2010 2:17:59 PM
  • We had a garden for the first time last year. This year, I'm planning on making it bigger and being more involved with it. - 1/4/2010 9:22:51 PM
  • I started a victory garden at the onset of Spring. This is my first veggie gardening project. I have planted cucumbers, swiss chard, squash, tomatoes, beets, carrots, green beans,and eggplant. So far everything is growing well without problems. I visit the garden daily. To watch the plants grow at various stages is exciting!!! And the benefits of gardening is worth it. After a hard day or stressful event, I find myself gravitating towards my garden and it itstantly calms me. Not to mention the excersise and money saving factors!!! - 5/4/2009 1:10:49 PM
  • Thanks for these timely articles about gardening. I would love to see more on container gardening, as I live in a mobile home community, and digging in the yard is not always an option. - 4/29/2009 9:31:17 PM
  • I love gardening! At this time of year, I do hours of mulching. I am trying to do one hour a day, that way I don't over exert myself and I burn the right amount of calories. I, too, think 300 - 600 is a little on the high side. Sparkpeople says its about 264 per hour for gardening. But, if you are just picking flowers or deadheading...I don't believe you would burn 264 per hour. I think that is more in line with raking, shoveling, hoeing, etc. - 10/24/2008 10:56:50 AM
  • LEELIE
    I love to garden - it gives great pleasure to reap the fruits of your labour. - 10/12/2008 11:20:14 PM
  • I have always love gardening, my Grandmother taught me how , when I was young.
    early in the day is the best time for me, It is a great time to meditate.and have a whole body workout - 10/12/2008 9:53:43 PM
  • I love to spend time outside in my gardens. I don't get to spend as much time as I would like because of having four young children. I was able to get outside for several hours yesterday and it felt wonderful! - 10/12/2008 12:43:38 PM
  • I've been gardening for years! When I was huge and out of shape, I could tell it was a great work out, becaause I had to stop every so often to catch my breath!. Now I can garden for hours without stopping except to get a drink of water! It's a great way to get outside and also to have fresh, home-grown produce of many kinds. - 10/12/2008 12:19:46 PM
  • I'd be *really* cautious about the 600 calorie/hour level. Being an avid gardener and also an avid horsewoman, I regularly do heavy outside work quite often - mucking out the barn, hauling dirt and bricks around, digging through clay-like soil, barking/compostin
    g ... I'm also usually working on a slope, so the wheelbarrow has to go uphill and down. Despite that, it's quite rare for me to burn as many as 400 calories an hour. Usually it is in the 200 calorie/hr range. So while gardening is excellent exercise for mind, body, and spirit, better check yourself with a HRM before entering a big 600 calories an hour into your fitness log! - 10/12/2008 5:21:00 AM
  • I try to get out into my yard and garden every night. I never thought that I would find so much joy in growing plants and veggies. It is a huge sense of accomplishment and the body gets a great workout. Sometimes too good but it is totally worth it! I haven't worked out in a few months...due to the garden and spending time in our pool but I went and weighed and measured at Curves yesterday and had lost 2.25 inches! That ROCKS. Gardening is GREAT exercise!! - 8/13/2008 11:53:01 AM
  • I agree 100% , gardening is a great stress reliever. and you smell the great fragances of all the flowers and nature. - 8/12/2008 12:04:41 AM
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