Many people enjoy a spot of gardening, but did you know that it’s also a great way to improve your overall fitness? Whether it’s stretching, strength training or building your stamina, gardening counts as exercise and can benefit not only your physical but also mental wellbeing while simultaneously improving the natural world around you! With these two activities so handily combined, it’s no wonder that gardening exercise has its own special day of celebration…
History of National Gardening Exercise Day
In its most common form gardening is about the active cultivation of plants, but it can also involve things like landscaping and the growing of food (although on a small scale, which differentiates it from farming).
Gardens have been around for much of human civilization, often a privilege of the wealthy but increasingly an option for people all over the world. There were certainly ornamental gardens as far back as Ancient Egypt, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Garden styles have varied over the centuries. In some periods gardeners have worked hard to create neat and tidy gardens arranged symmetrically, whereas other periods have favored more naturalistic creations, giving gardeners the challenging task of creating a kind of cultured wildness. They’re often home to other ornamental features such as fountains, pavilions, sculptures and the like, with ponds, streams and even lakes also common. And the growing of herbs, vegetables and other produce is a popular pastime as well.
While gardens over the centuries have been used for a variety of purposes, including for pleasure and relaxation, the act of gardening itself can often be hard work and has always been a great way of getting regular exercise! And that’s never been truer than in the modern age…
Due to modernization, with much human labor replaced by machinery, work often office-based, and journeys made easier by transport, people are increasingly looking for ways to incorporate more exercise into their daily schedules. Luckily for us, even basic activities such as taking the stairs or, in this case, gardening can actually really boost our exercise levels.
It is likely that National Gardening Exercise Day originated thanks to gardening clubs and groups, keen to spread the joy and benefits of gardening far and wide. It is a day when people are encouraged to get off the couch, head out into the garden and tend their patches. Not only does this help ensure that the garden looks good, but it also offers a healthy means of getting some exercise, while also enjoying the rewards that fresh air and some time in nature can bring.
The many benefits of gardening exercise
There are a whole host of reasons why exercise is vital for both our physical and mental wellbeing. From boosting the immune system to slowing ageing, from reducing the risk of some cancers to alleviating stress and anxiety, it’s important that we all incorporate some form of regular exercise into our day-to-day lives.
And what better way than gardening – not only are you improving your health but also the green spaces around your home! Plus you can save time on household chores and going to the gym by combining the two!
Gardening is such a great form of exercise because it allows you to incorporate all three of the main types: aerobic (more commonly known as cardio), anaerobic (which includes strength and resistance training) and flexibility. An activity such as digging, for example, will get the blood pumping, strengthen a whole range of muscles and involve plenty of bending and stretching too.
The other great advantage of gardening exercise is that it can be tailored to all levels and abilities, from gentle pottering and stretching to intensive labor and heavy lifting. This means anyone can get outdoors and reap the benefits by choosing whichever activities are suitable for them.
The aerobic aspects of gardening can help keep your cardiovascular system in good shape and also improve cognitive functioning, with various studies demonstrating a link between regular aerobic exercise and neurological benefits such as better memory, behavior control and stress management. The anaerobic parts can contribute to things like building muscle and strengthening bones, as well as helping counter inflammatory diseases. And flexibility can boost mobility, improve posture and help reduce the risk of injury.
Exercise generally has been demonstrated to contribute to our mental wellbeing, for example by reducing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and through its antidepressant effect. Combined with the access to nature provided by gardening, exercise becomes even more beneficial for our wellbeing, with gardening exercise likely to relax us and create a state of mindfulness.
As with all exercise, you just need to take care not to overdo things when gardening. Do a few stretches to limber up before starting, use safe techniques for lifting and avoid sudden and awkward movements to avoid pulling a muscle. Take regular breaks and keep yourself hydrated and energized!
How to celebrate National Gardening Exercise Day
To enjoy National Gardening Exercise Day, all that is really required is to head out and water the plants, mow the lawn and do some weeding, but more active people may choose to increase the intensity of their gardening efforts to really reap the rewards of exercise. Participants can consider using hand tools instead of electric and power tools, squatting instead of sitting and bending from the back to limber the body up. Regardless of the type, any additional exercise will help the body, and being outside will mean a healthy and natural intake of vitamin D as well!
Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, there are plenty of alternative ways to get your exercise through tending to nature. If you have a patio or balcony then you can create a potted garden instead, and you can always establish a green haven indoors through a variety of houseplants. While this kind of gardening may not be quite as strenuous, you can still get in a healthy dose of walking, bending, stretching, lifting and digging! And you’ll also reap the non-physical rewards that nurturing plants can bring.
Another option is to head on over to your local allotment or community garden. Allotments are a great solution for those who don’t have outdoor space at home and also allow you to meet and learn from other keen gardeners. Similarly, community gardens are a chance to make a real difference in your area and grow connections in your neighborhood, creating a flourishing garden together that everyone can enjoy and contribute to. And you could even get some added exercise in by walking, running or cycling there!
If none of the above take your fancy, then you could always go for a stroll in a public garden or national park or enjoy a spot of yoga on your back lawn. Not quite gardening exercise but still a great way to benefit your health while in a garden, so close enough!
And whatever you do be sure to spread the word on social media so that others can get in on the gardening exercise craze!