Gardening as Heart-pumping Exercise

Because we care about healthy hearts, we at Grow Local want to shine the spotlight on gardening, a fantastic activity for heart health. We are in the last stretch of our Central Texas winter, and it is time for spring planting, which means finding time for physical activity outdoors. Consider adding gardening to your weekly exercise routine, or if you already garden, learn how this activity is benefiting your body. Spending time knocking out chores in the garden brings a multitude of benefits. If you are already an avid gardener, you know that you may be sweaty and sore after a thorough weeding session. Shoveling soil and compost, raking, pulling out Bermuda grass, digging, and bending over to remove pests by hand are challenging workouts for even the fittest of athletes. Furthermore, the end result of lots of activity in the garden is harvesting fresh and healthy produce, which not only tastes delicious but provides our hearts and bodies with essential vitamins and minerals. Gardening is also an effective method for preventing childhood obesity and increasing children’s knowledge, intake, and preference for fruits and vegetables. What better way to teach kids holistically about what it takes to keep your heart healthy – from sowing seeds to taking that first bite of a summer tomato.

This past fall, we shared some of the studies which have shown that gardening qualifies as moderate to high-intensity physical activity. In one study, college-aged students completed the following tasks while wearing a device to track heart rate, calorie burn, and oxygen consumption: digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium, and planting transplants. Researchers found that all of the tasks were considered moderate- to high-intensity physical activity, with digging being the highest-intensity job, followed by raking. The American Heart Association recommends moderate and vigorous exercise in segments of thirty minutes a day OR two or three segments of 10-15 minutes per day. Gardening could be one of those shorter segments that you schedule on the calendar – 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. While the physical benefits are indisputable, let’s not forget the added mental health benefits that gardening provides – reduced stress (lower Cortisol levels), alleviation of depression, reduced risk of dementia, improved memory and problem solving, and increased feelings of well-being and high self-esteem. Spending time in nature can be a much-needed respite from four walls or congested traffic.

If you have a garden, use it as your personal outdoor gym where you can exercise while simultaneously maintaining your garden. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and wear a hat or use sunscreen. If you don’t have access to a garden, volunteer in the SFC Teaching Garden – we could always use extra help with weekly tasks on Friday mornings! Contact Paula Arciniega, SFC Volunteer Coordinator, for more info at or 512-236-0074 x 114.