It is easy to think of gardening and yard work as a task specifically for beautifying your home, but have you considered it as a way to grow a healthier you? Gardening promotes the physical activity that many of us are missing in our lives without requiring a gym membership.
After the recent tragedies in Orlando I found myself at a loss. The only thing I wanted to do was be outside working in our yard. For me, gardening for your health means the mental benefits of gardening far outweigh any other type of relaxation. As I call it, “putzing” around the garden puts me at ease and allows me to find some calm that is often missing. I don’t accomplish a whole heck of a lot, but it lets me slow down. I know some people who run, others who crochet, some who read, but I find my most calming activity is working in my garden.
Gardening to burn calories
How many calories do typical outdoor activities burn? It varies a lot depending on your size (the heavier you are, the more you burn), age (younger people burn more calories), and how much muscle you have (muscle burns more calories than fat). But on average, here’s what you might expect to burn per hour while cleaning up your yard:
- Heavy yard work (landscaping, moving rocks, hauling dirt): 400-600 calories per hour
- Raking and bagging leaves: 350-450 calories per hour
- Pulling weeds, planting flowers, etc.: 200-400 calories per hour
- Mowing the lawn: 250-350 calories per hour
Gardening is particularly good because you also do a lot of bending, twisting, lifting, and carrying. Be careful to do these things properly, bending at the knees and not straining your back. Gardening is great, too, because you’re constantly getting up and down, stretching, bending, and reaching for plants or weeds.
Gardening’s Good Germs
Although it may seem contrary, dirt is good for you! Larry Dossey, M.D., author of One Mind, writes: “Briefly, we know that children who are exposed to dirt in the formative years develop healthier, stronger immune systems when compared to children whose parents keep them squeaky clean, and they have a lower incidence of asthma, eczema and allergies later in life. Exposure to dirt in childhood promotes good health.”
It is always a good idea to wear sun protection, but working outdoors promotes plenty of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. In turn, calcium helps keep your bones strong and your immune system healthy.
Gardening’s Mental Benefits
Still not convinced? In addition to physical benefits, gardening for your health includes the calm of being outdoors, showing mental benefits. This type of benefit doesn’t involve fixing an irrigation break (which usually causes me rages of fury), but instead repetitive tasks reduce stress and promote happiness. The National Institute of Health goes so far as to recommend 30 to 45 minutes of gardening three to five times a week as part of a good strategy for overall health. And your yard will look great too.
The folks at Pottery Barn have put together this handy infographic showing how gardening and yoga can keep you, and your mind, in a healthy state. Just think what a beautiful world we would live in if everyone found their inner peace by gardening. Gardening for your health never sounded so good.