Reap the Benefits of Gardening

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:
  • To prevent muscle soreness, back pain, and repetitive strain injuries, warm up before starting and cool down after you are finished by walking and stretching.
  • Use steady, smooth motions to avoid injury.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if the temperature and humidity are high.
  • When picking up tools or lifting bags of soil, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
Happy Gardening!
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Member Comments

Love to work in the yard...satisfying and it burns calories Report
I have a big garden that takes about 1 hour per day to tend to, love it! Lots of muscles used.
My moto: Life is to short not to have dirt under your fingernails! Report
We worked out hard in the garden yesterday! Lifting, carrying, sweeping, pulling, Loved it! Report
Good article. Report
Truth be told, raking leaves seems to do a better job than blowing them. At least, with my leaf blower. Report
I grow non-GMO fruits, herbs, and vegetables the backyard.
Canning fresh vegetables for the winter months saves not only calories but money as well.
I also volunteer at the Botanic Garden in Horticulture. Gardening is a beautiful way to burn calories. Report
Fresh vegetables are the way to get them is to grow them yourself. Report
A regular lawn mowing is a great way to keep yourself and your garden healthy. Though it can be done on your own but if you want to save time and the physical efforts then professional lawn mowing services are good. We had ours by Gardening Northside ([url=http://mlks
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Change the way you look at plant life forever .... grow a TickleMe Plant
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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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
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!!! Report
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. Report


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.