We all know that physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but who has time for workouts during the summer when there is so much work to do in the yard and garden? Well, you will be happy to hear that many of those tasks around the yard qualify as bona fide exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), general gardening counts as moderate exercise, and activities like hoeing or digging count as vigorous exercise. If you are a gardener, you already know gardening is a good workout!
Not only do yardwork and gardening burn calories, these activities often involve stretching, bending, pulling, lifting, and digging, which can tone muscles, increase strength and flexibility, and build endurance. It can also help lower your blood pressure. The National Institutes of Health says common chores like gardening or raking leaves for 30+ minutes several times a week as activities that can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Yardwork and gardening come with other benefits, too. Spending time outside in nature reduces stress, and the repetitive nature of yardwork can help focus the mind in a way similar to meditation. Exposure to sunlight is good for your bones as it boosts Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. (Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, though, if you are going to spend more than a few minutes in the sunshine.) Time spent outdoors and the physical exertion of gardening can also help you sleep better.
When working in the yard, it is a good idea to vary your activities so you use a variety of muscles but not overdo any particular set of muscles. For instance: prune for a while, weed-eat for a while, rake for a while, mow for a while, and so on. Listen to your body – it will tell you when it’s time to take a break and switch to a new activity. It can also be helpful to switch sides every few minutes – dig, rake, or weed with your right arm, then your left, to work all the muscles. And of course, we probably don’t need to tell you that manual tools offer a better workout than electric or gas-powered. Using manual clippers, shears, and push mowers works more muscles and burns more calories than electric or gas-powered tools.
The CDC recommends (and so does Tillamook County Wellness) that you make sure to stay safe when gardening or working in the yard: drink plenty of water and take shade breaks as needed; make sure to apply sunscreen; wear gloves, goggles, long pants, and closed-toe shoes, especially when using sharp tools; make sure you have a current tetanus vaccination; and pay attention to your body – it’s easy to overdo when you are digging or carrying heavy loads.
We hope you are inspired to count your gardening as a good workout – good for your body, good for your mood, and good for your yard! Not to mention the sense of accomplishment you feel when you look at that freshly-mowed lawn, or that weed-free flower bed, or a section of your yard finally freed from the ever-encroaching blackberry brambles. But don’t worry – your exercise routine can continue across the seasons because the grass will keep growing, as will the weeds and the blackberries; there is always something to do in the yard or garden!
For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.