3 Reasons to Get Gardening

Two sisters crouching and digging in garden
Emma Kim/Getty Images

Any long-time gardener can readily tell you about the many benefits of gardening, from a spiritual connection to the earth to the inner satisfaction that comes from literally reaping what you sow. But the many health benefits of gardening are sometimes overlooked. Here are 3 major ones:

1. Gardening Counts as Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity

The American Heart Association considers general gardening to be one of many forms of exercise that fall under the category of moderate-intensity physical activity.


What counts as moderate-intensity exercise? Physical activities such as general gardening, brisk walking, ballroom dancing, and the equivalent fall into the category of moderate-intensity exercise. Most national and international guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This can translate into 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week, for instance—and gardening can count as that exercise.

2. Gardening Is a Fun, Productive Way to Burn Calories

As most gardeners can attest, gardening is not only mentally and spiritually stimulating, but it is also a fantastic physical activity that burns calories. It can thus help you lose weight if you are overweight or obese, and it can help prevent obesity in the long term by keeping you active.

A garden is a year-round commitment, and, as such, provides a ready source of physical activity that gives back to you not only in terms of calories burned, but also in terms of the flowers, herbs, vegetables, and sheer beauty that can be your reward if you are a dedicated gardener.

3. Gardening Will Build Muscles You Didn’t Know You Had

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), obtaining at least 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly can meet the minimum amount of recommended exercise.

Vigorous-intensity exercise includes physical activities such as hiking uphill, bicycling at or above ten miles per hour, fast swimming, running, traditional aerobics, and heavy shoveling or ditch digging, among others. Believe it or not, the heavier and more vigorous aspects of gardening count in this category. So if you’re a gardener who also does her own yard work, some of that—especially the heavy shoveling and digging—can also count as vigorous-intensity exercise.

The HHS guidelines note that additional health benefits can be obtained by increasing the amount of moderate-intensity physical activity to at least five hours per week, or increasing vigorous-intensity exercise to at least 2 1/2 hours per week. If gardening is your hobby, you already know that it won’t be hard to meet this amount—especially when the weather cooperates. Getting into the rhythm of gardening can easily make you wonder where the time went!

The aforementioned HHS guidelines also recommend engaging in muscle-strengthening exercise at least two days per week.

This is important for building and maintaining strong bones, for overall fitness, and for increasing lean muscle mass—which also helps in combating obesity.

Most forms of gardening inherently and by necessity include the use of various muscle groups, including in the hands, forearms, and shoulders, as well as in the glutes, thighs, and calves—and don’t forget the abdominals! All the bending, stooping, pulling, pushing and digging can constitute one of the best and most engaging muscle-strengthening workouts you can ask for.


New online garden community encourages healthy living through gardening. American Heart Association. Blog.heart.org July 30, 2014. Accessed online at http://blog.heart.org/new-online-garden-community-encourages-healthy-living-through-gardening/ on August 4, 2014.

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed online at http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/ on June 12, 2014.

Continue Reading