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Gardening is Exercise (page 4 of 4)

by Dan Hickey

Maximizing the Health Benefits of Gardening

Use a push mower instead of a rider. This a great way to get exercise once or twice a week. If your lawn is too big to cut without a rider, set aside a portion of your lawn for a push mower.

Plan a daily gardening activity. Of course, people living in colder climates need to be creative. If you use a snow thrower, shovel a portion of your driveway. When buying seeds or other easily carried items at a garden center, park your car a mile away and walk.

Vary your activities. Don't let one activity consume you, or you'll pay for it later. Break up strenuous gardening chores with more moderate and enjoyable activities. For example, break up a session of post-hole digging with some quiet weeding or transplanting.

Count the minutes. Make sure the total daily time of garden activities adds up to 30 minutes. Each activity should last at least 8 minutes. If you've been inactive, build up to the 30-minute total gradually.

Dig holes. Digging and shoveling are big calorie burners (250 to 350 calories per half-hour). Each depends on the muscles of the legs and stomach, arms and shoulders, and neck and back.

Make a compost pile. If you've been thinking about starting a compost pile, now there's another good reason to do it. Turning compost burns 250 to 300 calories per half-hour.

Listen to your muscles. Pay attention to the muscles that are working for you, as well as to your exertion levels. If you can increase your range of motion or safely add weight or resistance to a garden activity, give it a try. But whatever you do, don't use your back.

Calories Burned During Common Gardening Activities

The following chart gives the calories burned during 30 minutes of the activity for a 180-pound person. Generally, a person who weighs more will burn more calories than the amount shown here. Likewise, a person weighing less burns fewer calories.

Typical calories burned in 30 minutes of:

Sleeping 36
Sitting quietly 40
Watering lawn or garden 61
Mowing lawn (riding) 101
Trimming shrubs (power) 142
Raking 162
Bagging leaves 162
Planting seedlings 162
Mowing (push with motor) 182
Planting trees 182
Snow thrower (walking) 182
Trimming shrubs (manual) 182
Weeding 182
Clearing land 202
Digging, spading, tilling 202
Laying sod 202
General gardening 202
Chopping wood 243
Gardening with heavy powertools 243
Mowing lawn (push mower) 243
Shoveling snow 243
Double digging 344
Shoveling heavy snow 364

Dan Hickey is a former editor for National Gardening.

Photography by National Gardening Association

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