Faith in Fitness: Gardening: Cross-generational enjoyment

Published on: June 8, 2016

Parrish resident; Activities Coordinator JSA Medical Group, a Division of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

Rosie head shotYes, that’s right I referred to weeding, hoeing, mulching and composting as “enjoyment.” What else could make you smile as you realize that gardening mixes the age brackets easily; grandma, grandpa, dad, mom and kids all  crouched side by side eating a yummy strawberry freshly picked from the well-tended vine. How great it is to know that you can burn significant calories just by picking up that hoe or shovel, use it to its best advantage, and voila!

Think about jogging four miles. Then think about gardening for about an hour — it’s the same calorie usage — so you catch my drift, right? According to the Centers for Disease Control, gardening is comparable to “moderate cardiovascular exercise.”

Think about your patch of ground in gym terms. Want to work your gluteals/bottoms? Try weeding while squatting. For abdominals/stomach and torso, do weeding on hands and knees, hoeing, picking and starting a mower. For thighs, push a wheelbarrow. For the back, carry water cans. And for arms/shoulders, do all of the above, plus turn compost.

Gardening is the ultimate mind-body overall workout. Why? Several reasons: it gets you moving, sparks creativity, reduces stress,  improves flexibility, balance and sensory perception, boosts feel-good hormones (endorphins), cultivates a healthier heart and improves sexual function. Hmmm, let’s not go there!

Seems that the body functions best when it has perpetual motion, especially for those creaky joints! Research done by fitness experts also found that exercise outside (like gardening implies) rather than inside, is perceived as easier. So maybe we can trick our bodies into believing what the mind perceives. Who wants to scruff around in a gym when the sun is shining?

A few words of caution: Start slowly if you’re not used to exercising; do the difficult chores first so you’re not burned out before you get to them; stretch your muscles before and after gardening lift with your bent legs, not your back; do not torque your body by twisting and lifting at the same time; deep breathe while you work; and remember to drink lots of water.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor, but know you are also getting added value with good exercise, too. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing a wheelbarrow and shoveling all provide resistance training just like lifting weights — without all the jarring and stress on the body.

And, joy of joys, gardening helps burn calories, too! Weeding for men provides a 157-calorie loss, while for women it’s 156 calories. Not sure it counts if all you do is turn on the hose to give the garden a daily squirt!


Centers for Disease Control
Jeff Restuccio, author Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way
Bunny Guinness, The Telegraph
Dr. Mercola, Fitness Peak