The Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening isn’t just a way to ensure you have plenty of tomatoes to can, green beans to pickle, and strawberries to turn into a shortcake. A new study suggests that gardening and other low-to-moderate level physical activities can be very good for your health.
The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (not that gardening is a sport, mind you) followed a group of more than 88,000 Americans, between the ages of 40 and 85, over the course of 11 years to monitor their level of exercise and its impact on their overall health.
Participants in the study took part in just 10 to 59 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That moderate activity included things like taking a leisurely stroll, a twirl across the dance floor, or spending time gardening. The impact of even such low levels of physical activity were dramatic. The researchers found that people who engaged in such small amounts of activity had an 18% lower risk of death from any cause, including reducing the risk of death from cancer, compared to people who were inactive. More specifically, their risk of death from a heart attack or stroke dropped 12%. That is a pretty good pay off for spending ten minutes of dancing or 30 minutes digging up dirt and pulling weeds in the garden.
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Of course, people who managed to squeeze more exercise into their daily routines saw even greater benefits. People who found time (and motivation) to put in anywhere from 2.5 to 5 hours per week of moderate physical activity reduced their overall risk of death by 31%.
While gardening has great results for ensuring your home has plenty of fresh cut flowers and a steady supply of fruits and vegetables, it’s not the most vigorous physical activity. Unfortunately, the researchers did find that more rigorous workouts resulted in better health. They suggest that while gardening is good for you, if you have to choose between spending an hour in the garden or spending an hour at SoulCycle or on the treadmill, you will see better results if you hit the gym. “Individuals who participated in vigorous physical activities had significantly lower risk of death than those who only did light/moderate physical activity,” the journal wrote when announcing the results of the study. “So the authors recommend … that people short of time should consider more vigorous activities.”
That said, don’t give up your gardening gloves quite yet. If you are the type to never go to the gym (no judgment!) spending time in the yard lifting, squatting, raking, or mowing your lawn is a great way to get your body moving and based on this study, that is the most important thing of all.