The Gardening Workout: Get Fit While You Grow

According to the CDC, Those who are active are less likely to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.

To stave off these health problems, the CDC recommends 2.5 hours of physical activity each week, which includes gardening! And if you’re concerned that you’ve ghosted other fitness routines in the past, you’ll be happy to learn that, “Those that choose gardening as their moderate-intensity exercise are more likely to exercise 40-50 minutes longer on average than those that choose activities like walking or biking,” according to Michigan State University.

And since 74% of Americans garden in one form or another, there’s a good chance you’re already digging in the dirt, making your fitness goals all the more attainable. But it takes more than a few potted tomato plants to turn your green thumb into a workout routine. If you plan to use rows of vegetables and blooms in lieu of a gym membership, you’ll need to combine high and low-intensity gardening activities into your time in the yard.

Here’s how different gardening tasks stack up toward your fitness goals:


According to Harvard Medical School, a half an hour of digging will burn approximately 150 calories, the same amount you’d burn walking at 3.5 mph over the same amount of time. While you might not dig daily, spring and fall are the perfect times for tilling over the soil and enriching it with nutrients and fertilizers.


Compost is a rich, nutrient-filled soil formed by decaying organic matter. It’s used as an additive to gardens and beds and when planting trees and shrubs to enrich pre-existing soil.By composting around your gardens, beds and around planted trees and shrubs, you’ll burn another 150 calories per half hour by turning over the organic material to allow for oxidation.

If you’re new to composting, check the recent article in the Big Earth Blog on composting, here.


Raking up crispy fall leaves may be a no-brainer, but you can also use a rake to spread mulch, compost, manure, and fertilizer, making your rake a trusted piece of fitness equipment throughout the seasons. Raking burns 240 calories per hour.


While many of us dread mowing in the heat (some enough to hire a neighborhood kid to get out of it) you can take advantage of your lawn care by using your mower to get in some weekly cardio. Two hundred and thirty calories an hour, to be exact. After all, who needs a treadmill?

Plus, you’ll save the money you’ve been paying your neighbor’s teenagers.


If you’ve ever tended a garden, you already know that weeding is like laundry; It’s a task that never ends. But at 238 calories an hour, those unwanted sprouts may be a blessing for your fitness goals. Not to mention, your garden beds will look amazing!

In fact, gardening is so beneficial to our health that Dr. William Bird, who advises Public Health England on physical activity, has recommended that the National Health Service prescribe gardening.

According to Dr. Bird, “Gardening is a physical activity which can help reduce the risk of obesity, type two diabetes and heart disease. These results further demonstrate the positive impact that gardening and access to green spaces has on our physical and mental well-being.

It’s a great exercise for burning calories and for getting people outdoors and close to nature, which makes people feel psychologically energized too.”

Gardening can also benefit our mental health according to Guy Barter, the chief horticulturistof the Royal Horticultural Society, who says that, “Feeling physically and psychologically energized is really important and these results add to the evidence that gardening can help beat depression and reduce stress and that engagement with green spaces is good for personal health.”

There has also been scientific evidence published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease that shows gardening can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Not too shabby.

So whether you’re gardening to lose weight, get fit, harvest tomatoes or improve your mental health doesn’t matter. You’ll get all of these benefits and more just by getting your hands dirty.

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