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Does Gardening Count As Exercise?

Long-term weight control usually requires two components:  Following a prudent dietary plan and establishing a regular exercise routine.  When we think “exercise” the activities that are usually thought of are exercise classes at a gym, running/walking outside, aerobic equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals, biking, swimming, etc.

During every SP visit, we always query patients as to whether they are exercising and if so, what type of exercise is being performed.  Sometimes patients will answer that they have been “gardening” as their major exercise.  So, the question:  Does “gardening” really count as exercise?

Well, let’s first start with this as the goal of exercise for weight loss considerations:  An aggressive fat burning exercise will get your heart rate to 80% maximum for age and keep it there for at least 20 minutes.  As an example , if you are 50 years old, 220-50=170 and 80% of 170 is 136.   So, when if gardening is your exercise choice, how high is your heart rate going when you are doing these activities?  If you do not know the answer, a “smart watch” or heart rate monitor can provide you with this answer.

There is no doubt that aggressive physical work on the garden on a hot day will must assuredly get that heart rate up.  Physically mowing the lawn (not being on a riding mower sipping a beer), vigorously pulling stubborn weeks, hoeing, and other similar garden activities will, in fact, allow for lots of calorie burning.  If you find yourself sweating up a storm during your gardening activities, there is a good chance that you are, in fact, doing lots of “exercise”.

Another aspect of gardening:  The time you are spending outside tending to your garden lessens the time you are inside the house surfing the internet or watching Netflix.  The latter activities may be accompanied by trips to the pantry or refrigerator to snack whereas gardening outside will lead to lots of water breaks.

So, for you gardening folks:  If this is your sole “exercise” try to ensure that your activities are getting that heart rate up and purposefully ramp up the intensity of the activities as your energy allows for.  And for you non-gardening folks that scoff at people that claim gardening is “exercise”:  Try to go out with a hand mower (not rider or gas/electric mower) and try to cut wet grass in the morning when the dew is present.  Bet you will change your mind!

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