Study: Gardening is Just As Good for You As Going to the Gym

Listen up if you feel guilty about not going to the gym, don’t particularly like visiting one, or would rather pursue a different avenue for your fitness regimen. Gardening could be your new go-to.

It is common knowledge that doing household chores that require significant movement is good for your health. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that just 10 to 60 minutes of moderate activity per week (like gardening) can lower the risk of death by nearly 20%.

That means planting lilies and pulling weeds can therapeutic, relaxing, and athletic! Researchers analyzed the habits of 88,000 American adults between the ages of 40 and 85 and found a correlation between “leisure time physical activity” and lower rates of death from any disease, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

Such physical activities included gardening and dancing, and doing it just 10 minutes to one hour once a week can lower your risk of death by 18%. According to the study, those who got in 2.5 to 5 hours a week of a non-workout workout lowered their risk by 31%.

The greatest benefits were observed with those whose physical activities were at least 20 to 30 hours per week. Like walking, gardening and dancing helps to strengthen the lungs and heart, as well as tone the muscles.

For this study, participants were followed for 11 years, even up to death. Each was asked to complete a survey on the types of physical activity they engaged in and for how long. The more demanding the activity, the greater the reduction in early death.

You may not even realize you’re doing an intense workout in the garden, but lifting, bending, and squatting as you dig, plant, and rake all equate to exercise. If you do it for a few hours a week, you’re doing your physical and mental health a favor. Gardening has been linked to happiness and less depression, anxiety, and stress.

This study was part of the CDC’s annual National Health Interview Survey which collects information from the general public. Participants in this particular study did not have any underlying adverse health conditions that would affect the results.

The good news for adults is that even light exercise can offset ill health and diseases, though moderate to intense levels of exercises are recommended. Just don’t be sedentary.

As a reminder, the CDC has shared tips for people who want to enjoy gardening as a form of activity:

  • Try to do it for at least 2/5 hours per week, and include your family if you can.
  • Wear protection from the sun and insects when working outdoors.
  • If you find these activities to be a challenge or you have been sedentary for a while, start gradually and then work your way up in time length and type of activity.
  • Be sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Spring is the perfect time to jump outside and log in some fitness time. It’s also a great time to get out and dance somewhere. It can keep you around for longer than you realize!

Are you already doing heavy work in your garden? Did you know the benefits were so substantial for your health? What’s your favorite activity in the garden?


Psychology Today