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A recent study of participants mostly in their 40s who gardened in a community plot for at least a year had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than those who did not; lower by 1.8 points for women and 2.4 points for men. Put into pounds, that amounts to 11 pounds less for a 5’5” women and 16 pounds less for a 5’10” man.

That is a significant weight loss doing something gardeners love to do. Have you really thought of gardening as a fitness workout? Most likely not, but it is. Thirty to forty-five minutes per day reaps many of the same health benefits derived from other types of workouts, such as lowering blood pressure and the risk of diabetes, along with strengthening muscles, joints and bones. The stretching, bending over and lifting are all exercise.

Tasks done when gardening like digging, raking, weeding, mowing, planting and trimming overall burn approximately the same number of calories as walking, cycling, swimming and aerobics – over 115 calories per 30-minute session. Some gardening activities burn more calories than others. For instance, turning over a compost pile with a pitchfork for 15 minutes will burn 100 calories. Pushing a power mower for an hour burns 300 calories. Did you ever imagine that something you like to do is so good for you? Not to mention all of the good produce you can raise and eat with gardening.

Not only is gardening good for you physically, but mentally as well. Digging around in the dirt has a calming effect. Part of the reason is that as you work the ground, the hormone endorphins are released into your bloodstream, resulting in the same euphoric feeling most people experience after working out.

Prepare for gardening as you would any other exercise. Start with a warm-up with dynamic stretching exercises. Warm muscles are less likely to get injured than cold muscles. After gardening, do some static stretching as a cool down. If you lift anything heavy, be sure to lift with your knees and not your back.

You might not even think of gardening as a way to get fit, but make no mistake about it, it is as good a workout as many of the other fitness routines. Not only are you getting fit, but getting healthy fresh vegetables in return to eat as an additional reward.