Gardening is as Healthful as Going to the Gym

Image: gardening tools and plants.
Gardening tools and plants ready for work.

Kudos to Better Homes and Gardens for tipping us of to a recent study that shows that gardening has significant health benefits. The study examined the benefit of leisure-time physical activity in two steps. First, the researchers pulled data from a series of surveys of 88,000 adults aged 40-85 that were conducted over a 10-year period to quantify their weekly leisure-time physical activity. Then they looked at National Death Index records to determine who had died in later years.

Here’s an excerpt from the study itself:

The primary study exposure was leisure time PA (physical activity) defined by frequency and duration of PA for the study participants. All study participants were asked two sets of questions that assessed the frequency and duration of leisure time PA. Frequency was assessed as PA for at least 10 min and categorised into: vigorous PA (eg, running, faster cycling and competitive sports, etc.) and light or moderate PA (eg, brisk walking, dancing and gardening, etc.). Using a combination of frequency (times/week) and duration of PA (minutes/time), we defined leisure time PA as measured in minutes/week units. 

Beneficial associations of low and large doses of leisure time physical activity with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality: a national cohort study of 88,140 US adults

What they learned is that those who engaged in 10-50 minutes of leisure-time activity per week had a 18% lower risk of death compared to inactive individuals. Those who reported between 150 and 299 minutes of leisure-time activity, which is the government recommended amount of exercise had a 30% lower risk. The report has more details that say longer and more strenuous reaps even higher benefits. You can go read the full report yourself, if you want the more details.

Someday, I’ll look at the raw data and see how many actually did gardening as their leisure activity. In any case, the point is that moving, bending, walking, digging, and carrying all appear to contribute to the health benefit of gardening.

This is great news for me. I’d much rather be outdoors in the sunshine, being productive in the garden, than in an artificially lighted gym doing rote exercises. Did you ever see a barbell produce a lovely flower?

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