Did you set any New Year Goals or resolutions this year? It is estimated that 48% of New Year's goals set for 2024 are based on exercise and fitness (1). Exercise is one of the most important things we can do to maintain our health and quality of life as we age. It helps to improve bone health, cognition, memory, and mental health. Exercise can increase stamina and decrease the risk of falling. Furthermore, it can lower the risk of many diseases, such as high blood pressure and Type II Diabetes (2). Because of exercise's multisystemic benefits on our bodies, consider making your fitness a top priority in the new year.
The good news is that gardening and yard work count as exercise! Health standards and guidelines advise adults to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly (2). General gardening activities such as raking or pushing a mower are examples of this type of cardiovascular exercise. The speed you are working at, or the type of terrain, may factor into whether the activity is classified as moderate or vigorous. The CDC generally categorizes the following as moderate exercise: raking, pushing a power mower, bagging grass or leaves, light shoveling or digging (less than 10 lbs per minute), weeding, planting trees, or trimming shrubs and trees. Examples of activities that are classified as vigorous include heavy or rapid shoveling (more than 10 lbs per minute), digging ditches, felling trees, pushing a nonmotorized lawn mower, swinging an ax, or hand-splitting logs (3).
In addition to aerobic exercise, it is also recommended to perform a strength training program twice a week (2). Strength programs should target all major muscle groups. Examples of activities in your yard that count as strength training include lifting bags of mulch, moving heavy pots, stacking or carrying pieces of wood, and hauling large branches (3).
Time spent outside and in nature while working in your yard or community garden plot helps to decrease stress, increase vitamin D levels, and contribute to a non-sedentary lifestyle. To continue to enjoy your gardening activities, consider making a targeted strength program or exercise routine that addresses the numerous muscles required to lift, push, pull, and carry objects. Additionally, consider that your joints need the available range of motion required to do these tasks. It is important to have a good stretching program that will allow you to bend, reach, and stretch to get those difficult parts of your garden. As with initiating any exercise program, always gradually ease into a new routine and consult with your physician first.
Best wishes that a healthy you contribute to sustaining a bountiful garden in 2024!
To learn more about the suggested guidelines for exercise and examples of each, please visit The American Heart Association Website
1. Davis, Sarah. (2023, December 18). New Year's Resolution Statistics 2024. Forbes Health. https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/
2. American Heart Association. (2023, October 24). Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
3. CDC. (n.d.). General physical activities defined by levels of intensity. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/pa_intensity_table_2_1.pdf