Skip the Gym for the Garden

Can you feel the burn?

Gardening: It's more than just getting your hands dirty.     Photo: monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock

You might have earned that glass of cold lemonade more than you thought. New research from two South Korean universities suggests that in addition to being an enjoyable and eco-friendly hobby, gardening can provide a solid workout.

Studies have already confirmed the health benefits of gardening for older adults, but this new study, published in HortTechnology, is the first to explore the activity's effects on adults in their twenties. Participants put their green thumbs to work, performing 10 common gardening tasks for five minutes apiece and taking five-minute breathers between each.

The scientists classified nine of the 10 activities—planting transplants, mixing growing medium, watering, harvesting, sowing, hoeing, mulching, raking, and weeding—as "moderate intensity." And if you have a penchant for digging? Based on the data, digging is a "high-intensity" activity.

"Determining the exercise intensity of gardening tasks should be useful information for developing garden exercise programs based on physical activity recommendations for health benefits," the researchers said. As scientists learn more about gardening's physical aspects, that information could be put to use in therapy programs for injured or special-needs patients, or just to figure out how long people need to tend their crops to equal their usual morning jog. Gardening has also been found to lower cholesterol and blood sugar and improve mental health.

If you're looking for a specific gardening workout regimen, you'll have to wait a bit longer. According to lead author Ki-Cheol Son, "There was not enough data on the metabolic equivalents of gardening tasks in different age groups to develop a garden exercise program for maintaining or improving health conditions." For now, you'll just have to devote a lot of time to tending your garden and hope for the best. Hey, it could be worse.

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