Not only does gardening provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that people who participated in community gardening were less likely to be overweight or obese and had significantly lower body mass indexes (BMIs) than their neighbors who did not participate in the program. Analysis of the study results found that male gardeners were 62 percent less likely to be categorized as overweight or obese and the female gardeners were 46 percent less likely to be overweight or obese. The participants in the gardening group also had smaller waistlines.
The American Council on Exercise says that gardening can burn about 300 calories per hour. Wow! This calorie-incinerating activity is a great way to get cardiovascular activity. Gardening also helps you build strong muscles, improve your joint strength and gain flexibility. This occurs because when you garden you're using all of your body's major muscle groups at once--your legs, buttocks, back, arms, shoulders, neck and abdomen.
Here's a breakdown of the average calorie-burn for 30 minutes for a 180-pound male (will vary somewhat based on your sex/weight):
Watering lawn/garden with hose: 61 calories
Raking/bagging leaves: 162 calories
Planting seeds: 162 calories
Planting trees: 182 calories
Weeding garden: 182 calories
Digging, tilling, using spade: 202 calories
Laying sod: 202 calories
Clearing land: 202 calories
Chopping wood: 243 calories
Mowing lawn with push mower: 243 calories
If you take up gardening, you may also enjoy health benefits you can't necessarily see but are much more important than looking slimmer. Gardening has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension and many forms of cancer.
Increased Intake of Fruits and Vegetables
Perhaps this is the most obvious benefit of gardening: getting to enjoy a plethora of delicious, nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and herbs! People who participate in gardening have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient-dense, disease-fighting foods that are very low in calories and fat. Produce has a high water content, so it aids with hydration and fills you up on fewer calories. Studies have proven that people generally eat the same volume of food daily and by eating produce you can fill up with the same amount (weight) of food but take in fewer calories, thus leading to weight loss over time.
Eating more produce from your garden will increase your fiber intake. Fiber has been proven to aid in weight loss because it makes you feel full, preventing you from eating more than your body needs. Also, high-fiber foods take more time to chew, allowing your brain enough time to receive messages from your stomach that you're full.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.