Gardening for Exercise

I always feel better in the summerwhen I'm outside working in the yard and flower beds, but I alwaysthought it was because I thoroughly enjoy gardening and it'stherapeutic to me. Gardening is also a good form of exercise. Iread an article recently detailing the number of calories burnedand the muscle groups used doing various yard and gardeningactivities. As with most exercise programs, the activity must bemaintained for a period of at least 30 minutes to be beneficial.Fitness terms such as endurance, resistance, flexibility, andstrength are applicable to gardening activities.

Digging and spading in the garden gives a moderate to heavyintensity workout. It involves muscles in the upper body, back,and legs. Women doing this activity burn 150 calories in a 30minute period, men burn 197. This activity improves musclestrength and endurance as well because a great deal of resistanceis involved (removing the hard clay pan in the soil).

Mowing the lawn is also a good workout. Of course it dependson what type of mower. Mowing with a push reel mower gives a highintensity workout involving the whole body. Women burn 181calories in 30 minutes, men burn 236. Mowing with a rotary powermower gives the whole body a moderate workout. Women burn 135calories in 30 minutes, men burn 177. Sorry, riding mowers weren'tinvolved in the study.

Planting transplants, shrubs, and trees gives the whole bodya moderate workout. Women burn 135 calories every 30 minutes, menburn 177. After planting, the trimming and pruning of trees andshrubs also keeps us in shape. Our hands, forearms, shoulders, andupper back receive a moderate workout. Women burn 135 calories andmen burn 177 calories every 30 minutes.

Weeding the flower beds and vegetable garden gives the legs,hips, buttocks, and hamstrings a moderate workout if we stoop whilewe weed. Women burn 138 calories every 30 minutes, men burn 181.Using herbicides to help control weeds didn't fit in with thisdefinition of weeding.

Raking the yard, though it seems like a lot of work, providesa moderate or light workout of the arms, shoulders, back,hamstrings, and buttocks. Women burn 120 calories every 30minutes, men 157. Gee, it looks like the kids and the dog burnedmore calories jumping in the leaf piles than I did raking them thepast 3 weekends.

Now, if you're thinking that your exercise program has endedfor the season, just wait. Shoveling snow (think of December,January, February, and March) provides a very heavy workout for theshoulders, arms, back, and legs. Women burn 256 calories, men burn334 every 30 minutes. I better put the snowblower away, especiallywith the holidays coming and the overabundance of food.

I feel much better now about letting my exercise routine slipduring the past several months. I figure that as often as the lawnwas mowed and the vegetable garden weeded this past summer, I hadas good of a workout as my neighbors who jog and walk regularly bymy house. But I wonder, just how many calories do I burn in thewinter rifling through all the garden catalogs? Maybe I'llvolunteer for that study.

This article originally appeared in the November 10, 1993 issue, pp. 10, 1993 issue, pp. 161-162.

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