Gardening for Mental & Physical Fitness

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I am always singing the praises of gardening.

Typically, I tend to talk about gardening as a way to beautify your home, spend time with your family and grow fabulous things – be they trees or flower beds or tasty tomatoes or veggies.

Today, however, I want to take a look at the many health benefits of gardening.

Are you looking for a fitness program that will help you with endurance, flexibility, and strength? Keep you outside in the fresh air instead of inside at a gym? Give you calmness and relaxation even as it provides a moderate aerobic workout? Gardening can do all those things!

Don’t take my word for it; the National Institutes of Health published a “meta-analysis” on gardening reviewing 22 case studies worldwide about how gardening affected people both physically and emotionally. Here’s what they found:

Studies reported a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community….This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health.

And gardening is exercise with a purpose. Once you are done raking, weeding, turning compost, pruning shrubs, planting trees, digging holes and hauling bags of soil and fertilizer, you’ve not only given yourself a workout (to the tune of burning 200 to 300 calories an hour), you’ve also created something lovely.

But like all exercise routines, there are some things to keep in mind when you are gardening:

  • Stretch. You wouldn’t run a 5K or start lifting weights without a warmup and the same is true for gardening.
  • Alternate “exercises.” Try not to go more than 20 or 30 minutes doing one specific task. It ensures that you don’t overstress one muscle group.
  • Take plenty of breaks. It’s easy to overdo it in any physical activity and gardening is no exception.
  • Keep hydrated. Between our high altitude and the workout gardening can give you, you’ll need to drink plenty of water.
  • Make sure you are enjoying your workout. Gardening shouldn’t be seen as a punishment or annoying chore but as a chance to play in the dirt. Yep, it’s hard work, but it can also be joyful and fun.

I hope you are getting to enjoy all of the benefits of gardening this year from the workout you’ll get to the flowers and veggies you’ll enjoy all season long.

Happy gardening,