We all find it hard to find the time to get to the gym and fit regular exercise into our busy lives. But whether you are looking to burn some calories, or just stay strong and healthy, exercise is key. So, what if you could kill two birds with one stone? The garden is not just a place for pretty plants, it’s also a great place for you to stay active and get fit – and it might surprise you just how good a workout you can get!
Gardening is a truly rewarding and relaxing pursuit, but when done regularly you can lose weight and get a full work out too. Not to mention, if you’re also growing and eating your own fruit and veg, then you can build a well-rounded and healthy life style – all from your own back yard!
So if you’re not necessarily the type to get down to the gym, or you struggle to find the time, you can still get a great workout doing something that you enjoy instead.
Regular gardening can do wonders for your physical shape. Did you know that three hours of gardening can compare to around an hour of intensive workout in the gym?
According to nutritionists at Loughborough University, mowing, digging and planting for two to three hours can help burn off up to one pound a week.
Just half an hour weeding can burn up to 150 calories, and heavier tasks like hedge trimming can burn over 400 calories per hour!
Here is some info on how many calories you can expect to burn in half an hour doing different garden tasks, according to a study from Harvard Medical School:
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As you can see, gardening can be a great way to burn off some calories on a daily basis. But how does it compare to what you would be doing at the gym?
A lot of gardening jobs do a brilliant job of getting all of your muscle groups working, so let’s have a little look at some common garden activities and what gym machines they could compare to. But do keep in mind, we’re not talking about leisurely going about your garden tasks here – if you want to get the full benefit and get your heart rate up then you have to put some welly into each job.
Mowing instead of Treading
Trade the treadmill for a lawnmower and get yourself moving. If you have a manual push mower then you will get a real workout for your upper body too, but for most of us with a petrol or electric powered device it will mainly focus on your legs and buttocks.
As well as the cosmetic benefits, mowing the lawn also helps keep your lawn healthy and eliminates some of the pests from the grass at the same time.
Raking instead of Rowing
Raking will work your entire upper body, including your shoulder and back muscles, as well as the pectoral muscles in your chest. Obviously your arms will get a lot of use, but your legs will too when you are picking up and clearing the debris. This all-over exercise works similar muscle groups to a rowing machine.
Raking, whether it is grass clippings or dead leaves, is important to allow your lawn to breathe and get the sunlight it needs.
Weeding and Planting instead of Cross Training
Pulling up those pesky weeds, as well as planting new additions to the garden, can really get your blood flowing. This one will work your body in a similar way to a cross trainer machine.
Focusing on the shoulder and arm muscles especially, but also giving your thighs and bottom a good workout too from all of the up and down movement and squatting.
Weeds can quickly get out of control without regular attention; Not only will they look untidy, they also steal nutrients and water from surrounding plants.
Digging instead of Lifting
Swap the weight bench for a shovel and get lifting.
Another one that will activate almost every part of your body, but with more force than raking, making it more similar to using the weight machines in the gym.
Aside from the specific tasks you may dig for, digging also improves soil aeration. However, heavy soil must never be dug when it’s wet, as this can damage the soil structure and lead to poor aeration and drainage.
To get the most out of it, you’ll need regular and sustained activity.
But remember to be careful. It’s easy to go too hard and injure yourself. Good stretching is an absolute necessity, and break up your activities every 15 minutes or so if you can. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be in good shape. Literally!
Working in the garden may not replace the gym all year round, but it is a great way to improve your fitness and health while doing something incredibly rewarding.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
What an excellent workout chart, well done to all who helped to compose it. I tend to find gardening a little difficult but with these statistics in mind it will help me to get out there more, thank you.
Glad it can be of help, Sally! We all need a bit of extra motivation sometimes!
I will gladly swop the gym for my garden any day.
It’s my go to place when I need to unwind. It’s seeing all the hard work afterwards too that makes it all worthwhile
Thank You for the motivation!! It can be so boring at the gym….I Love my garden and spent a Lot of time mowing,digging ,raking and weeding ~ it’s good for my soul,mind and body. In winter I go to the gym (we get hip – deep snow in Canada and winter last almost 6 months) and plan new flowerbeds and think of all my garden chores…that gets me through gym time ~ What you put in now – you get to enjoy later!!
I’m a new gardener 2 weeks in new gardener job. And it’s real hard work, but it’s good as i need to loose some weight. Good to know i will be loosing weight soon hopefully and improving my muscle strength and tone.
Getting an allotment was one of the best things I have done. Digging, shovelling, planting, harvesting, manual lawnmower, chasing after my chickens, carrying manure and chicken feed, building fences and the list goes on. It keeps me sane after a long hard week sat at a desk in work. The results are fresh vegetables and fruit and new friends.
When it says digging for two to three hours can help you lose a pound a week, does that mean every day – 7 days a week? 5?
The research showed that 2-3 hours of gardening could burn around 600-700 calories – and it’s recommended that you do 150 minutes of exercise across the week, so split it how it works best for you.