Gardening can help keep the body fit

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Q: I love to garden and with the weather getting warmer, I plan to be outside most days of the week. I’ve heard that this counts as a way to stay in shape, is this true?

A: Although gardening is often not classified as a workout, in reality it can be a great way to keep the body fit, increasing stamina and overall strength and helping with weight management. The degree to which benefit is gained depends on factors such as current level of fitness and the duration and intensity of the activity. Gardening typically works all of the major muscle groups because it involves bending, pulling, turning, stooping, lifting and digging. An hour of relatively intense gardening that involves some digging and weeding burns roughly 330 calories per hour for a 150 pound person. If non-stop, calorie burn can increase to as much as 450 in one hour. If you own a fitness watch or other type device, you can utilize this to look at things like heart rate, number of steps taken and more precise calorie burning that will provide you with useful information in real time. Doing so can be interesting and motivating and can also help to keep you safe. This can be especially important for those unaccustomed to exertion, so pace yourself initially until you become familiar with your body’s responses.

Speaking of safety, if you are planning to be outdoors for long periods of time, be sure to be hydrated ahead of time and keep water handy so that you can sip on it regularly. Many people are chronically dehydrated, and in about one third, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken as hunger. Metabolism also slows down when we deprive ourselves of adequate amounts of water.

In addition, don’t forget the sunscreen/sunblock which should be applied generously before heading out, and re-applied as product directions stipulate. Wearing a hat, gardening gloves or other means of protective clothing also goes a long way toward avoiding sunburn and risk of skin cancer. Another safety tip: No matter what the activity, do your best to maintain proper alignment of the spinal column. With bending over, squatting down, etc, the back tends to become rounded, so do your best to avoid hunching or stooping over. Instead, use the leg/hip muscles as much as possible to help you accomplish the task at hand.

A great bonus when it comes to gardening is that it is both physically and mentally healthy. Those who garden regularly not only enjoy a physical fitness benefit, but they experience a greater sense of calmness and relaxation, resulting in a better mood that lasts for hours. One study at the University of California found that gardening reduces stress more effectively than many other standard methods of relaxation, and it has been shown to be beneficial to those with depression and other health problems. Creativity, productivity and the joy of seeing the fruits of your labor are all involved with this wonderful activity.

Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services LLC. Send email to

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