Garden Workouts

At a time when fitness professionals are touting the advantages of regular, moderate exercise, gardening is being recognized as a healthy lifestyle habit that can provide significant benefits to people of all ages.

Studies show that 30 minutes a day of moderate activity, such as gardening, decreases the risk of numerous chronic ailments including heart disease, stroke, and type II diabetes. And in addition to gardening’s physical benefits, proponents point to the physiological boost conferred by accomplishing a task and literally taking the time to smell the roses.

"Gardening is one of those rare activities that many people enjoy so much that they don't even think of it as exercise" notes exercise physiologist Bryant Stamford, who directs the Health Promotion and Wellness Center at the University of Louisville. "Busy people who don't want to take time out for an exercise class can work in the garden and feel like they've gotten something done."

Depending on the activity, gardening tasks like digging and planting are 4 to 5 MET activities. MET stands for metabolic equivalents; a single MET is the amount of energy someone expends sitting quietly, while a 2 MET activity uses twice that much energy, which makes it equivalent to sports such as snorkeling, volleyball or walking. The toughest gardening workouts include shoveling, pushing a wheelbarrow (that has vegetation in it) and tilling. At 6 METs, that puts these activities on par with fencing, downhill skiing, softball and doubles tennis!

Working out in the garden offers a unique chance to interact with our environment unmatched by any sport. Gardening is a Zen approach to health that gives us exercise, relief from stress, nutritious fruits and vegetables, companionship of family and friends, and the aesthetic pleasure of working with nature. OVF members enjoy this every day.