Our sedentary lives really hit home for many people over the last year. Did you gain the COVID-19, or was it 20 pounds?
We now understand sitting in front of a screen for much of the day can be as harmful to our health as smoking cigarettes. Walking more is great, and if you have a treadmill desk, it’s not so tough to finish 10,000 steps in a day. But if you need to go for a walk the old-fashioned way – yes, outside! – it means you need to get in a minimum of five miles of walking per day. If you walk at a brisk four miles per hour pace, it will take you an hour and 15 minutes.
Good Earth Plant Company has a much better idea. It’s more productive, and it’s more fun too. So join us, and let’s get started on our summertime workout campaign starting Sunday, June 6. It’s National Gardening Exercise Day. Yes, it’s for real!
National Gardening Exercise Day encourages us to get outside, which is a healthy change of scene to start with. Work on your garden, burn off calories, and enjoy it the way Mother Nature intended. National Gardening Exercise Day highlights the important physical health benefits of gardening.
If you’re a gardener, you know gardening is exercise. Experts say the various activities and tasks of gardening ultimately use all of the major muscle groups. In addition, strenuous gardening activities such as raking, hoeing, and digging are both aerobic and muscle strengthening.
Need to pick something up? Do your squats. Carrying something? Do some curls. Reaching for something? Calf raises. Do your rows while weeding. You get the picture. You’re incorporating typical gym exercises while you garden. No machines needed.
Sixty minutes of steady gardening work involving activities like weeding, digging, mulching, and carrying materials offers the equivalent of walking five miles – there are your 10,000 daily steps. After a weekend of working in your garden, you’ll know it’s exercise because you’ll probably feel sore in some new places.
Everyday gardening will burn 300 calories per hour, the same as walking, golfing, or other low-impact exercises. If you get into heavy yard work, you can double the calorie burn, which is as good as running, cycling, or strenuous interval training.
According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, gardening is an ideal form of exercise because it combines three types of fitness: Strength, endurance, and flexibility. Bending and stretching to pull weeds or reaching up high (safely!) provides your flexibility. It takes strength to dig or carry gardening materials. Anyone who’s spent a day working in his or her yard knows it takes a surprising amount of endurance.
This is great – but there’s something even more important to me. Exposure to plants, soil, and nature is good for your mental health too. Spending time outside in nature reduces stress. Exposure to sunshine (safely with sunscreen!) helps regulate your mood and provides vitamin D. Instead of running on the road to nowhere on a treadmill, you can enjoy beautiful flowers or a nice harvest from your vegetable garden. Believe it or not, even if you don’t grow anything edible, AHTA studies show gardeners eat a wider variety of healthy vegetables and eat more veggies overall than non-gardeners.
Another benefit of gardening comes from the opportunity to focus on a task and enjoy the effortless ability to engage our attention. Researchers at the Landscape and Human Health Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have studied the human capacity for “directed attention,” which is what happens when we use smartphones, email, and other electronics. When we run short of this kind of attention, we get cranky and stressed out, and our thinking processes slow down.
When we enjoy activities in a natural environment, like gardening or nature walks, the repetitive soothing nature of these tasks helps us develop “effortless attention,” which replenishes our brain’s energy.
There’s no excuse in San Diego, with our excellent year-round weather, not to get outside 30 to 60 minutes three times a week. With more hours of sunshine after work, this is something you can do. Early mornings are also ideal for getting outside (and good if you want to avoid sun exposure).
We understand not everyone is fortunate enough to have their own garden. That’s OK! Even a balcony or a patio can provide space to grow veggies, herbs, or flowers in planters and decorative pottery.
Or do what we love to do at Good Earth Plant Company: add potted plants or a living wall to your indoor environment. Our horticultural technicians (we’re hiring!) move around a lot. We help them meet their Fitbit goals – and they get paid for it! You may need to add a little to your workout with a walk through the park.
Consider joining a community garden. The San Diego Community Garden Network is on a mission to help create, support, and grow community gardens. It can direct you to a garden in your area or help you start one.
People who start gardening are more likely to stick with it than a typical exercise program and do it often because it’s fun and rewarding. It doesn’t seem like exercise. Plus, you get something out of it in addition to your improved physical and mental health. You beautify your surroundings, and you can enjoy the flowers, fruits, and vegetables you grow.
If you’ve got kids who are finishing their school year bored to death by Zoom, what better time than now to get them involved in a gardening project? Help them develop healthy habits and skills that will last a lifetime.
Put down those smartphones, pick up a shovel and get dirty! We’re talking to you! You probably missed out on World Naked Gardening Day in May. So don’t miss this one. Take time next Sunday, June 6, to celebrate one of America’s favorite hobbies. Go out and exercise with, and among, your plants. No cheating by using a leaf blower or gas-powered trimmers and lawnmowers. Where’s the fun (or calorie-burning) in that?
PS – ICYMI, yes, we’re hiring horticultural technicians! Get paid to exercise and avoid being stuck at a desk by joining the Good Earth Plant Company team. Read more about our openings here and apply today.