My whole family loves getting out in the garden at different times of the year to mow the lawn, dig the flower beds and rake leaves. It’s great fun and great for our health too.
Gardening definitely counts as exercise and can help you get fit and lose weight. For example, digging burns 400-600 calories per hour, raking 350-450 calories per hour, push mowing 250-350 calories per hour, and weeding 200-400 calories per hour.
In this blog post we’re going to consider the health benefits of gardening as a whole, then look at mowing, digging and raking in more detail – and try to establish how many calories each one burns.
What Are The Health Advantages of Gardening?
Spending time working in your yard has lots of benefits to your health. You don’t even have to be doing heavy yard jobs like digging or building to feel the health benefits of gardening. Even something as low-key as pruning flowers still means you’re outdoors, moving around – and that’s far better than being on the couch, right?
So what are the main health advantages of gardening?
It’s a good workout
It’s true. An hour’s gardening can burn up anything between 200 and 600 calories, depending on what tasks you’re doing (and we’ll look at this in more detail in a moment).
You’re moving and stretching
You can use most of your major muscle groups during a session in the yard. Think about it: even a simple bit of weeding involves stretching. Just be conscious of your posture and how you’re moving.
Gardening is great for your mental health
The combination of being outdoors and engaging in a mindful task means that you’re taking care of your mental health, too.
You might even end up with some healthy food!
If you’re growing fruit and veg, you’re also benefiting your health through diet. There’s nothing like some freshly picked zucchini, squash, or berries.
You’re getting your dose of vitamin D
Vitamin D comes from sunlight, so time spent outdoors is essential for our body’s health. If you have an indoor job, it’s especially important to seek out some sunlight each day (while also being aware of the dangers of too much UV exposure.
And of course, having a lovely, welcoming outdoor space is healthy in itself. You’ll feel really good about yourself when you look out across your yard, and see the results of your labors. This will lead to you wanting to spend more time outdoors, which is good for both body and mind. Gardening for health reasons creates this wonderful, virtuous circle.
Can You Lose Weight By Gardening?
Yes, you can lose weight by gardening. At its most basic, weight loss is getting the right balance of calories taken in versus calories burned off, and gardening can be a superb way of getting your daily exercise.
Any increase in activity will burn off more calories, and gardening is probably the most physical task you carry out in your home. Even if you have a modest-sized yard, getting out there every day and watering, weeding and feeding your beds and containers will make some difference to your physical wellbeing.
How Many Calories Do You Burn in 1 Hour Gardening?
How many calories you burn while you work in your yard depends on the activity. WebMD offers a handy breakdown of calories burned during gardening.
Heavy work, such as landscaping, shoveling snow, shifting hefty loads like rocks: 400-600 calories per hour.
Raking up leaves and then bagging them: 350-450 calories per hour.
Mowing the lawn (pushing, not riding!): 250-350 calories per hour.
Weeding, pruning, planting, feeding etc: 200-400 calories per hour.
Of course, how many calories you burn also depends on other factors, such as your age (yes, younger folks burn them up faster…) and your build. You can burn more by switching to a reel mower and using manual rather than electric hedge cutters.
Is Gardening Aerobic or Anaerobic Exercise?
Gardening can be both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, depending upon which task you are doing. Aerobic exercise is a cardiovascular workout, which increases your breathing and heart rate. Aerobic or cardio exercise typically includes workouts such as running, cycling, fast walking, and swimming.
Anaerobic exercise involves short bursts of intensive activity. Good examples of this are weight lifting and sprinting. Literally, aerobic means “with oxygen” and anaerobic “without oxygen”; and intense anaerobic activity breaks down your glucose stores rather than absorbing oxygen. Both forms burn calories.
In the garden, mowing the lawn is aerobic exercise. It’s a longer activity that gets your heart going. If you have to shift heavy rocks from one side of your yard to the other, that’s anaerobic. Typical yard exercise is the former with maybe the odd bit of the latter.
Is Mowing The Lawn Good Exercise?
Yes, mowing the lawn is good for you, and you can trim your waistline as you’re trimming the grass. Pushing a lawn mower can be great aerobic exercise, especially if you have a large lawn (although not so large that you’ve gone and bought a riding mower).
As well as the size of your yard, the type of mower you use also affects how good a workout you get. A reel mower, with no additional power to help you, will burn off more calories than an electric or gas powered model. All that work is coming from you and your muscles, not an engine.
There are additional tasks involved with lawn maintenance that are also good exercise, such as raking and gathering up grass clippings. Don’t forget about tidying the edges and strimming around trees and beds. This all adds up to a more-than-respectable workout. And you have a neat lawn at the end of it!
How Many Calories Do You Burn in an Hour Mowing?
Opinions vary slightly on this; however from our research, we reckon somewhere between 300 and 400 calories an hour for a push power mower.
If you have a manual mower, this increases to between 400 and 500 calories per hour. Because you are using your own physical strength and not an engine, the cardio benefits are greater (and arguably, it’s really good for the grass, too).
Whichever method you use, you’re still using plenty of muscle groups, as well as getting a reasonable cardiovascular workout. You haven’t even had to pay a cent to join a gym.
Is Digging Good Exercise?
Digging is another way to get a good workout without leaving your own yard. According to Men’s Health, medium-level digging can burn up to 8 calories a minute, while really heavy digging takes that up to 11.
You’ll also work muscles in your shoulders, arms, core, and legs. Think back to a time when you did a decent-size digging job in your yard (maybe turning over a new vegetable bed, or preparing the ground for your deck). Remember how quickly your breathing became hard, and how your shoulders felt the next day? Digging can be a really tough workout.
Digging isn’t a daily task; however, hoeing is a more regular activity, and is also a good way of working on those arm, shoulder and core muscles. Fewer weeds and improved upper body strength: a real win-win.
Is Raking Leaves Good Exercise?
As we mentioned earlier, raking leaves can burn up around 350 calories an hour. It’s a good, moderate exercise, and like digging, is a great workout for your upper body. Your shoulders, arms, and core muscles will all benefit from raking. (Just remember that leaves can be great mulch for your flower beds, so don’t get carried away and remove them all.)
Before you rake (or hoe, mow, or dig, or carry out any task in the yard), have a good stretch to make sure you’re warmed up. You wouldn’t set out on a jog without a warm-up, and gardening can be a similar level of exercise as we’ve just learned. Never embark on an intense anaerobic task like shifting rocks without first preparing those muscles with a warm-up activity.
The message is clear: if you’re lucky enough to have a garden or some backyard space – then getting out there and mowing, digging and raking will be great for your physical and mental health.
Of course, you could pay someone else to do all this for you – but with such unequivocal health benefits, doing all the gardening yourself is a no brainer.
As I said earlier, my whole family loves getting out in the garden, and I certainly feel fitter and more positive about the world if I’ve done a good few hours mowing or similar yard activity.