We all know that we should be exercising. It’s the worst – we know that any exercise is universally helpful, and that we all should be doing some amount of exercise per week. But let’s be real: unless you are a maniac, who actually enjoys working out? Sure, you can tell me that you like to run, but who actually enjoys running uphill in the rain in the dark? Not us. 

So, if exercise is so daunting, then what can we do to make it more manageable, or, dare we say it, enjoyable? What if there’s a part of life that can be exercise that we haven’t thought of yet? 

When most people think of exercise, they think of running on the treadmill, or lifting weights, or trying to fall off the elliptical machine. But that’s a lot of time at the gym, surrounded by hardcore health nuts who are just straight up intimidating. But take it from us – the gym isn’t your only option to get your exercise hours in. 

Did you know that you can get the same (if not better, let’s be real) benefits from gardening as you do from hitting the gym? Now, you may not be able to bench press your own weight after working in the garden for a while like you might be able to after hitting the gym, but who wants to do that anyway?

Gardening has significant mental, emotional, and physical benefits that are comparable to the benefits of working out, yet most people would consider gardening leisure activity. So if you’re looking for something easier than a treadmill and burpees with the same general benefits, then you are in luck!

A study done of data gathered by the National Health Interview Survey considered eleven years worth of data and just under 100,000 participants to see just how impactful a weekly garden routine could really be. This is a high amount of participants over a pretty long period of time, so there is a lot of information and data to work through when it comes with putting together results of this experiment. 

For the purposes of this study, researchers considered people who participated in a weekly “leisure time physical activity.” This was defined broadly, and included gardening, walking around the block, and dancing, to name a few. The amount of physical activity was not necessarily defined, either. The first bracket of study reveals the benefits of doing these activities for only 10-59 minutes a week, which isn’t much at all! 

Compared to a sedentary lifestyle, this bracket of activity lead to an 18% lower risk of mortality of any cause. From only 10 minutes a week! That may seem like a negligible amount of time to you, but clearly it can do wonders for your overall health. 

For those who were in the next bracket up with 150 to 299 minutes of activity had a decreased risk of mortality by 31%. Once again, a comparatively smaller amount of time in the grand scheme of things, with significant results. For reference, 150 minutes a week is 30 minutes five days a week. This is less time than we spend on social media every day. (And for what it’s worth, you could totally hop on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day and still get your scrolling time or Netflix in. Just saying.)

So, now that you’re convinced that leisure activities can be helpful, let’s get back to gardening. It is all around good exercise, and includes your full body in work. There aren’t many exercises (or leisure activities, for that matter) that are so all inclusive, so that is a great place to start. In addition, studies have shown that it can do wonders for depression or anxiety, because it helps you accurately and gently process the world and how you fit into it. Therefore, it can increase your quality of life, how satisfied you are with life, and create a sense of community. Understanding your place in the world is something that can cause great stress and trauma to any life, so having an activity that subconsciously helps you process reality is a great place to be.

The benefits of gardening continue: it can reduce your need for all kinds of medications, it can reduce your stress levels, and it can increase your sense of ownership in your life. So many people struggle with control and the place of chaos in their day to day lives – it can leave many feeling like they are spiraling out of control and that they can’t control the chaos of their day to day life. 

Remembering and realizing that we all struggle with circumstances outside of our control is a helpful reality to be reminded of, and accepting that chaos is a natural part of the world order can bring us peace. No one has every part of their life together – you don’t have to have your life together either. Gardening helps us recognize the presence of chaos in life, but also realize how small actions can make a huge difference. 

Gardening also reminds us that we can’t grow on our own, but need the help of others to help water and prune us so that we can be the best version of ourselves and bear the best fruit of a life well lived. Gardening can be a metaphor for life in so many ways, and also a great activity to get you moving throughout the week. 

Whether you love gardening for all of the inherent life lessons that can be learned, or you just like to have fresh tomatoes and cilantro in your salsa, gardening is a great activity for any age to be involved in. Pull some weeds, get some fresh air, and be ready to experience for yourself just how wonderful gardening can really be.  Gardening is great for those looking for a new hobby, an excuse to get outside, or a handle on their mental health.