Aerobic gardening? Or ever hear of this -- a warmup and stretching routine before going outside to work in the garden? You cannot be serious.
What's next: selling the exercise equipment and canceling the gym membership to pursue a new and improved fitness regimen that involves digging in the dirt as you produce your new oasis of homegrown vegetables or impeccably landscaped flower beds?
Don't laugh; we are serious. As farfetched as it might sound, gardening is lauded by its devotees and fitness experts alike as a great source of exercise and physical fitness, to include cardiovascular considerations. Think about it. Gardening offers an ample calorie-burning potential while working most of the body's major muscle groups. Added bonuses include being in the great out-of-doors soaking in the wondrous outdoor air, perhaps growing a few months' worth of dinner table staples and providing a peaceful, mind-settling setting that makes that endorphin kick a little extra special.
And to those of you scoffing at the potential fitness benefits of gardening and how hard it works your muscles, well, give it a shot for about an hour some late afternoon, and good luck getting out of bed the next day. No pain, no gain, new meaning.
A recent AARP The Magazine article, offering exercise tips for gardeners, says, "An hour of gardening can reduce stress, boost bone density, and burn a whopping 300 calories. But all that bending, squatting, raking, and lifting can challenge muscles as much as any competitive sport."
That's the cue for parents whose children are in need of a body mass index makeover yet are averse to competitive sports. Consider steering those kids to that weed-infested garden in the backyard that hasn't been tilled in years and needs a little TLC (tender loving cultivation) before its still-rich soil can again sprout the likes of tomatoes, corn, beets, cabbages and watermelons.
Jeff Restuccio, who wrote Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way, has a martial arts black belt, but he discovered that time spent with his children working and playing in the garden constituted more exercise than he had anticipated. "I like gardening because it's purposeful," Restuccio tells WebMD. "With food so cheap in the stores, you may not save money growing your own, but the chances are, if you grew it, your family will eat it."
To buttress the idea of gardening as exercise, Women's Health cited a South Korean study conducted to assess gardening activities for their physical activity intensity. The researchers worked with 15 volunteers (college-aged students) and outfitted them with devices to monitor their heart rate, calorie burn and oxygen consumption as they performed 10 gardening tasks for five minutes each with five-minute breaks in between.
In short, the study found that all 10 of the tasks rated between moderate and high on the scale for intensity of workout. Digging was the highest rated of the gardening activities, followed, in order, by raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium and, finally, planting transplants.
The key in all this, according to gardening author Sharon Lovejoy, as quoted in WebMD, is to regard gardening as a source of joy, not a form of punishment: "You should feel lucky to be outside in the garden," the aptly-named Lovejoy said.
Take it from famous orator, clergyman, philosopher and gardening aficionado Ralph Waldo Emerson: gardening is a good thing. "When I go into the garden with a spade, and dig a bed," Psychology Today quotes Emerson as saying, "I feel such an exhilaration and health, that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands."