Spending time in the garden
Gardening and fitness are often thought to be connected, but how true is it?
There is one thing we can say for certain, gardening is still hugely popular in the UK.
Whether it is related to the plethora of gardening shows that adorn our televisions, or a need to connect with nature in some ways, who knows?
We are a nation of gardeners. So let’s look at the pros and cons of this pastime.
Gardening and Fitness – What are the benefits?
The benefits of gardening might actually be more numerous than you first imagine.
It stands to reason, that if it is done properly, there will be physiological benefits. But what many people overlook the psychological benefits of gardening.
In fact, an article in the Journal of Health Psychology explains that gardening “leads to decreased cortisol levels” and that it helps to “promote relief from acute stress”.
There is plenty of literature that points to the mood elevating impact of gardening. And some research says that it is so beneficial it may even help to stave off dementia.
And from a physical perspective, gardening helps you burn off a decent amount of calories. Even light gardening can help account for 300 calories in an hour. Typically, it will help to burn 200-400 calories an hour depending on how vigorously you are working.
It has less obvious benefits too. It is thought to counteract osteoporosis, as it engages you in repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching and include all the major muscle groups in a good work out.
Amazingly, the publication “Stroke: Journal of The American Heart Association”, believes that gardening is advantageous in lessening the risk of stroke.
What is more, the immune system also benefits from the increased exposure to daylight and the additional Vitamin D. It feels good to be in the great outdoors instead of a sweaty gym with artificial lighting.
Gardening and Fitness – A word of caution
There are clearly physical and psychological benefits to gardening as outlined above. However, as is so often the case, it is probably wise to work on a baseline of fitness to help you enjoy your gardening with less risk of injury.
Gardening is a great source of physical activity but does have limitations with regard to getting you fully fit. It will elevate the heart-rate and have cardiovascular benefits. But typically, pure cardiovascular or endurance training involves continuous repetitive movements of major muscle groups (for example when you cycle or swim). Gardening is often more of a stop-start activity.
Gardening does require strength. However, gardening activities don’t always encourage you to use a full range of motion in the way a traditional activity such as Pilates might.
And of course, gardening does carry a risk of injury. In fact, there are around 47,000 visits to A&E a year from gardening related incidents.
In fact, many physiotherapists are busy dealing with gardening-related injuries at this time of year.
But don’t let that deter you. Stay safe, supplement your gardening with other activities, and enjoy a healthier and fitter summer this year.