Is gardening the new gym workout?

I love two for one offers, and apparently gardening is not only going to provide you with lots of organic fruit and vegetables, and flowers to brighten your life, but apparently it has now been declared healthy, too.

A report from the American Society for Horticultural Science (30 December 2008), has given us the glad news that being fit is not just about eating fewer calories but it also provides the right amount of recommended physical activity for the over 60′s. It’s generally recommended that for optimum fitness you need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week – which can be hard to fit into a schedule, and as my readers know I am full of admiration for those who have the discipline to go the gym regularly, but I have no intention of joining them.

But gardening is a pleasurable activity and one that is very popular; previous research has shown that it results in improvement in mental health and depression and a recent study from Kansas State University wanted to find out how it could affect fitness compared to such activities as jogging, swimming, or weight training. They anticipated good results on bone density because of the weight bearing activities related to gardening – mowing the lawn, digging holes, pulling up weeds, pushing the wheelbarrow in case you are interested – because all these tasks involve, using all the muscle groups in the body.

Obviously the time you spend in the garden varies according to the time of year from up to 33 hours a week in May down to 15 hours a week in June and July – and it does depend on what part of the country you live in. As we get older we are risk of having less strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and a healthy heart but we are also less likely to exercise because we find it boring. Gardening is a year round physical activity that engages our mind and our body and now we can also cite is as our ‘free and natural gym’. No membership required, but I am wondering how I can spend 33 hours a week on a balcony 6 feet by 3 feet – does sitting watching the garden grow count do you think?