2010-10-07 / News

Gardening is good for you – maybe

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

I was shoveling mulch into a wheelbarrow last weekend when several runners ran down the street. They were getting their exercise and I was getting mine – only mine was what I consider to be more productive exercise. I was using many more muscles repetitively, and changing to other muscles to move the wheelbarrow to the garden bed, empty the mulch and rake it over.

I was able to keep going for most of the day and, as an additional bonus, I got a good garden bed out of the exercise instead of worn-out running shoes.

Gardening is a healthful exercise. As a bonus, you get nice garden beds, lots of flowers and tons of vegetables (remember to eat five servings a day!). Plus, according to the website CalorieCountAbout.com, you burn about 340 calories per hour (for a 150-pound person) just digging your garden, about 400 calories per hour mowing your lawn with a walk-behind mower and about 275 calories per hour just doing general gardening.

Runners burn more calories per hour – about a 1,000 for runners who complete a mile in about eight or nine minutes – but they don’t end up with the yard looking nice after 10 miles of hard running. Nor do most runners keep going for several hours.

That’s not to knock running, of course. I used to run, too.

As an added benefit to gardening, you get a ton – in many cases, far too much to eat – of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Then, there are the intangibles that go with gardening: Aching knees, a sore lower back, digging in the muck, fingernail dirt, piles of weeds and all things gardeners probably don’t enjoy, but are nonetheless found wherever gardeners persist in trying to change nature.

In the interest of full disclosure – as I write this, I am nursing a sore back, the product of trying to do too much gardening before the rain came last Monday. On the bright side, I don’t have to strap on running shoes and go out in the rain. I can barely move!

So, why do we garden? Is it for the exercise? For the flowers? For the fruit and vegetables? Or is it just because we want to change our surroundings and enjoy the fruits of our labors?

I often ask myself why I’m doing it – working the yard in some particularly onerous task, when I could be sailing or relaxing or reading a book.

I figure it’s because I enjoy digging in the soil, watching things grow and knowing that I planted the seed and nurtured it to harvestable size. When it’s full size, I get to enjoy eating the fresh, organically-grown vegetable or fruit, knowing that it hasn’t been sprayed to within an inch of its life and transported for 1,000 miles to arrive at my table one or two weeks after it was picked. For me, that’s what gardening is all about.

What about you?

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