Benefits to Gardening Go Beyond Aesthetics

A beautiful garden can increase the curb appeal of your home. A good vegetable garden can bring you a variety of fresh produce right in your own backyard. But the benefits to gardening go beyond that, and if you’ve never exercised that green thumb, summer is a great time to get your hands dirty.

Depending on the type of gardening you’re doing, things like pulling weeds and planting plants can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories per hour. Heavier work like landscaping, moving rocks or hauling dirt can burn 400 to 600 calories per hour. It’s also a great aerobic workout that combines all three types of exercise — endurance, flexibility and strength.

And there are ways to get more bang for your exercise buck as you garden, too. For instance, switching the hand you rake with will both help rotate that strength exercise and avoid injuries caused by repetitive motion. Switching between lighter activities like planting and heavier activities like digging up large patches of soil also makes for a longer, more well-rounded workout.

Of course, if you’re using gardening as a way to ease into a regular exercise routine, the CDC recommends consulting with your doctor first, and getting a better idea of what level and kinds of activities you should engage in according to your current fitness level. People at higher risk for heat-related illness, such as infants and children up to four years of age; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; and people who are physically ill or who take certain medications should be especially careful.

Other precautions the CDC recommends include:

  1. Being up-to-date on your vaccinations. Adults should have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
  2. Stay hydrated, and take into account the temperature outside to plan for frequent water breaks.
  3. Use an insect repellent.
  4. Remember that the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in our area, so wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the head, face, ears and neck, and a sunscreen at least 15 SPF or higher.

Seasonal allergies might also make it uncomfortable to spend time outdoors. But Dr. Allis Cho, an ear, nose and throat specialist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial, says there are things you can do to mitigate those allergic reactions and enjoy the outdoors.

“Taking medications such as nasal steroids and antihistamines will help,” she said. “Doing nasal saline irrigations before and after outdoors activities will help a lot. If you have severe allergies to many environmental allergens, consider allergy shots or sublingual immunotherapy.”

And if you find that those over-the-counter medications aren’t doing the trick, Cho recommends seeing a doctor. “Severe allergies also make you more prone to getting sinus infections,” she said, “Then you definitely need to see a doctor.”

But her biggest piece of advice? Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate!

“Get the pollen out of your nose before it has a chance to do any damage,” Cho said.

Irrigation (which may come in the form of the well-known Neti pot), uses a solution of water and saline to clear mucus and debris from nasal passages.

Experts also recommend treating gardening just like any other form of exercise — which means you need to warm up and stretch before starting a project.

“If you go out there cold, you’re risking injury,” said Randy Turner, the manager of the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth Fitness Center. “The recommendations now are to get your muscles a little warm, and then stretch before and after any activity.”

In other words, go take that walk, get some light stretching in, and then dig in.

But what if you don’t have space for a garden? You’re in luck! Community gardens abound, and all need volunteers. Dallas Master Gardeners has a great list of community gardens all over the Dallas area, as does the Tarrant County Master Gardeners.

Does gardening help keep you active and healthy? Sound off in the comments or on social media with the hashtag #AYAWBgardenfit!

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

4 Comments

  • Sharon K. Walker says:

    I absolutely love gardening, as it feeds my soul. Great exercise, too, as you mentioned.

  • Denise S. Pollis says:

    If you don’t have the space for “ground gardening”, physical strength, or never gardened before, pots of various sizes (placed on the ground or a table for easy accessibility) planted with annual or perennial flowers, herbs, and/or small vegetables, will bring pleasure, a sense of accomplishment, an enjoyable activity, and help with stress relief and relaxation. Most people don’t think of gardening as “exercise”, but as the article shows, it is.

    Also, I consider house cleaning as exercise, which makes it more enjoyable and certainly brings me a sense of accomplishment that comes from both the movement and shiny floors!

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