Maria contacted me a while ago to tell how much gardening has helped her cope with a chronic illness and asked if she could write a post about the health benefits it can bring. As this is something dear to me, too, I naturally agreed. So here it is (my promised post about Berlin's IGA will simply come later): I hope you'll all enjoy it and thank you, Maria!
Sporty workouts of all kinds are popular, they work for many people and their results in many cases are undeniable. For those who loathe going to the gym, adhering to the strict regimen of many exercise routines, or simply are realistic about the chances they will follow through, there are more palatable options to lose weight.
Specifically, gardening is not seen by most as an option to get into shape, but it should be. Gardening has proven benefits to one’s mental health, and certain activities are more strenuous and proven to help cut inches from the waistline.
Gardening as a Stress Reliever
Before exploring in more detail the purely physical benefits of gardening, the aid which gardening provides in relieving stress is worth noting. In turn, these mental health benefits may also result in the easing of physical pain due to the decrease in stress.
Several scholarly studies have reinforced the notion that gardening – often referred to as horticultural therapy – is beneficial to mental health in many respects. These benefits range from emotional, social, vocational, spiritual, and physical in nature. According to another study conducted by NASA researchers, the presence of plants, an integral aspect of gardening, helps to reduce feelings of loneliness while increasing feelings of relaxation.
These mental stress-relieving effects of gardening also have direct implications on physical health. As noted by the Canadian Mental Health Association, deficits in mental health put one at risk for physical ailments, and vice versa. Fortunately, gardening can help improve both mental and physical health.
Gardening as Physical Exercise
The level of physicality involved in gardening varies from task to task. While mixing soil or planting small plants may be considered only light exercise, more strenuous tasks such as digging or constructing flower beds and compost piles require far more exertion. Regardless, all forms of gardening have been found to have great benefit on physical health.
Texas A&M, one of the foremost agricultural universities, found that even less strenuous gardening activities such as weeding and raking can burn as many as 300 calories per hour. Further, your own pace while gardening can result in higher rates of calorie loss.
Peak Fitness reports that even when gardening outdoors in a manner more strenuous than indoor exercise, the perception of gardening is less strenuous than indoor exercise. It speaks to the soothing, relaxing effects that engaging with the earth and surrounding oneself with vegetation provides.
For Those Looking to Really Sweat
Some gardening is more sweat-inducing than other gardening. When it comes to those looking to break a sweat, consider a larger-scale project. For example, creating a home-made compost pile can be the heavy-lifting you are looking for.
As mentioned, digging larger flower beds can involve some more taxing physical motions, while activities such as mulching require you to bend and move around, surely breaking a sweat in the process.
Many people find that installing stone steps as walkways is visually appealing, and the process of acquiring and putting in place these stones can add some serious strength to your muscles and core. While not everybody is going to start with these strenuous options when approaching gardening for the first time, know that options for physical activity range from moderate to high intensity, providing differing levels of exercise.
When most people think ‘getting into shape’, the first image that comes to mind is a gym or an organized team sporting activity. However, it is important to realize that the easiest start to getting in shape lies in your yard. Gardening offers a range of physical activities that will suit both those looking for a light sweat and those seeking more strenuous activity.