As a popular UK pastime, you could be forgiven for thinking gardening is nothing more than a hobby – or just something to do when the weather gets warmer. But if you are lucky enough to have a garden to tend or even an allotment to work on, gardening is more beneficial than first meets the eye.
You are probably thinking “is gardening exercise?” and “does gardening help you lose weight?”. The fact is, yes, gardening is exercise and really can help you burn calories!
Although not the most intensive type of workout possible, gardening can still be highly beneficial, especially for some demographics and people returning from injury. And although gardening is not the only solution to weight loss, it can play a key role in helping you shed the pounds while enjoying the benefits of the outdoors.
There are many advantages to gardening besides weight loss. Aside from getting you outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, gardening works all your major muscle groups. This gives you a vigorous exercise that will keep you fit and benefit your overall health. It burns calories and helps you lose weight when done in conjunction with a healthy diet.
Gardening is not only a great pursuit for your physical health. Spending time outdoors and exercising also has a positive impact on mental health. According to Public Health England (2017), just 10 minutes of exertion per day can lead to noticeable physical and mental health improvements. Approximately 300 calories per hour can be burned gardening, which is great if you want to lose weight (CDC, 2015). But there are many other advantages to be aware of.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Gardening?
Gardening has numerous physical and mental health benefits, especially if you do it regularly. Getting outdoors in the fresh air and undertaking light to moderate exercise is beneficial no matter what your age group or ability. The benefits apply for all sizes of garden, although larger gardens will inevitably involve greater exertion.
There is also a cost factor to consider as well. Subscriptions to gyms and fitness centres can be expensive and often tie you in for at least 12 months. Gardening is relatively inexpensive in comparison. All you need to start is a few tools and plants. And you can easily expand your equipment as your interest grows.
- Burn calories – Gardening burns around 300 calories per hour, making it a great moderate-intensity exercise. If you want to get healthier and lose a few inches around your waistline, gardening and other types of yard work can help contribute to weight loss. This is especially the case if you undertake more demanding tasks, such as mowing the lawn, digging soil, carrying plants, and installing garden features. But even low-intensity activities like pruning and weeding can increase your heart rate and fitness.
- Lower blood pressure – A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019 showed that exercise can help to reduce and maintain positive blood pressure readings. If like many people, you suffer from hypertension and want to lower your risk of a stroke and heart attack, gardening can be very beneficial. This is especially true if you undertake gardening regularly or combine the activity with other forms of exercise.
- Good for your bones – Gardening outdoors in the sunshine allows your body to generate greater amounts of Vitamin D. There is strong evidence for the use of Vitamin D in bone health. This is because Vitamin D assists your body to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which in turn helps to strengthen your bones. This can reduce your risk of developing autoimmune disorders and some forms of bone and joint-related conditions (NCBI, 2012).
- Eat healthier – Besides the direct physical benefits of exercise, gardening can also help you to eat a more varied and healthy diet. The UK government recommends everyone eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. By growing fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, peas, carrots, and salad leaves, you can save money and improve your wellbeing. The more land you have, the more space you will have for growing. In the event you have limited space, it may be worth investing in an allotment plot.
Mental health benefits
- Lower stress levels – Enjoying the fresh air outdoors can have an instant impact on your mood and ongoing mental health. If you need to switch off from the world and take time for yourself, gardening is a great stress-busting activity. It helps you focus on simple but enjoyable tasks, reducing anxiety and giving you an element of control in an uncertain world.
- Social activity – Besides helping to reduce stress, gardening can also be a great social activity. Getting out and about in your garden provides an opportunity to chat with the neighbours and passers-by. You can even invite friends over to assist. Social opportunities can help you gain perspective and share in common interests, both of which are vital to mental wellbeing.
- Get back to nature – Getting away from technology and back to the sights and sounds of nature can restore your mindset and contribute to positive mental health. In this information age, constant distractions and interruptions from social media can reduce productivity and lead to social anxiety disorders. Gardening is the complete opposite and provides tranquillity and vital exercise. But don’t forget to take regular breaks. Investing in an outdoor wooden bench is highly recommended for all keen gardeners!
Different Jobs You Can Do In The Garden And The Amount Of Calories You Can Burn
Gardening can be as relaxing or as energetic as you like. Whether you engage in low-intensity gardening or heavy yard work, you can still burn calories and gain many physical and mental health benefits.
- Weeding and watering plants – Low-intensity gardening tasks like weeding and watering plants can burn around 200 to 400 calories per hour. The calories burned weeding works well if you want to avoid too much exertion. Low-intensity gardening can work all areas of the body. Watering plants gives a moderate workout for the arms, especially with a heavy watering can. Weeding your lawn and surrounding area can work the legs, core, arms, and shoulder muscles.
- Raking and bagging leaves – Raking and bagging leaves burns 250 to 450 calories per hour, depending on the size of your garden. Performing raking tasks not only keeps your lawn looking clean and inviting, but it will also work your entire upper body, including your core, biceps and triceps, and shoulders. Bagging leaves also gives a good workout for your upper and lower body.
- Mowing the lawn – Mowing the lawn is arguably the most common gardening activity and can help you burn 250 to 350 calories per hour. It will ensure your grass stays in good condition, improve the appearance of your outdoor areas, and reduce the chance of pests inhabiting your garden. Choosing to mow your lawn using a manual lawn mower will work all your major leg muscles, including your calves and thighs. Your arms get a decent workout, too.
- Shovelling snow – Although a task usually reserved for the winter months, shovelling snow provides a vigorous workout if you are feeling energetic. This activity can burn around 400 to 600 calories per hour, making it one of the best exercises for gardeners. Shovelling works every part of your body and is recommended if you want to maintain or increase strength. Both your upper and lower body can benefit from shovelling, including your arms, shoulders, thighs, core, and back. The calories burned digging is similar to shovelling snow and also provides a highly beneficial workout.
- Heavy yard work – More intensive yard work like hedge trimming, stacking wood, moving rocks, landscaping, and hauling dirt can burn an impressive 400 to 600 calories per hour. So if you want to take your garden workout to the next level, embarking on a regeneration project is well worth considering. Larger tasks like landscaping projects provide a comprehensive workout for all your muscle groups. This includes your thighs and leg muscles, core muscle groups, arms, shoulders, and back.
In this article, we have taken a look at how gardening can help you burn calories and improve your overall wellbeing. If you want to get outdoors and participate in moderate-intensity exercise, gardening fits the bill perfectly while providing a wide range of physical and mental health benefits.
It is clear from numerous studies that gardening helps to burn calories. For example, you can burn around 300 calories per hour when digging soil. If you prefer lightweight work like weeding, you can burn 200 to 400 calories an hour. More intensive work like shovelling snow can burn upwards of 400 calories per hour.
Gardening provides you with a full workout, covering both the upper and lower body. Your arms, shoulders, legs, thighs, back, and more all receive a great workout from tasks like weeding, watering plants, raking soil, shovelling snow, and mowing the lawn. This makes it a great way to exercise without spending money on expensive gym memberships.
Besides the numerous physical health benefits available, gardening also allows you to explore a new hobby and gain the many mental health advantages of spending time outdoors. Focusing on gardening tasks can focus your mind, enabling you to break free from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. It is no wonder then that gardening is a popular pastime for people of all ages and walks of life.
British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019). How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure. At: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/14/859.
CDC (2015). Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. At: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html?s_cid=tw_ob387.
Harvard Health Publishing (2017). Harvard Medical School. Taking too much vitamin D can cloud its benefits and create health risks. At: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/taking-too-much-vitamin-d-can-cloud-its-benefits-and-create-health-risks.
NCBI (2012). Vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis. At: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3539179.
NHS (2018). Why 5 A Day?. At: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day.
Public Health England (2017). 10 minutes brisk walking each day in mid-life for health benefits and towards achieving physical activity recommendations. At:
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.