How Gardening is Good Exercise for Keeping Active and Prolonging Life

There is growing concern at the impact of sitting down for long periods of time. This is referred to as 'sedentary time' and it applies to time spent at work or at home in front of computers, or sitting down and watching TV and videos for hours at a time.

Recent research has shown that even those people who exercise for an hour a day or complete 10,000 steps may still be at risk from the effect inactivity.

Studies have also identified the potential health benefits of what is termed non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). This relates to hobbies such as gardening, do-it-yourself (DYI) home maintenance and renovations, and just pottering about doing various hobbies.

These activities cut down on the number of continuous hours spent being inactive and sitting down doing nothing.

Dangers of Inactivity

Being inactive for two hours or more can be detrimental to your health, even if you workout, go for long walks or runs every day. Older people, who can become inactive when they retire, or otherwise generally 'slow down' are particularly vulnerable to inactivity.

On the other hand many older people, particularly after retirement, may spend 1-3 hours a day gardening rather than sitting down in front of a computer at work.

This article reviews recent research on the importance of NEPA in reducing sedentary times for improving cardiovascular fitness and overall life expectancy and 'all-cause' mortality, especially for people over 60 years of age.

Increased Life Expectancy

A study of about 4,200 60-year-olds in Stockholm showed regular gardening DYI and other NEPA can prolong life by as much as 30% for people over the age of 60 years.

The study was very long term, and involved tracking the lives of people over an average of 12 years. NEPA and regular exercise habits such as walking and running were assessed from questionnaires. Mortality and heart attack rates were compared for people grouped by activity rate and records of heart attacks and deaths.

The findings of the study were:

► Regular gardeners had lower risks of heart attack and stroke.

► The study showed that gardening was beneficial even for people who trained for marathons or undertook regular physical activity for and hour or more each day.

► The regular gardeners showed the same reduced risk of disease and death as the marathon runners.

► The most active group of people aged 60 years or more showed a 25% reduction in risk of stroke or heart attack.

The more generally active groups (high NEPA) showed the following benefits compared to the inactive group, that contributed to their improved health:

► Smaller waist circumference

► Lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood for both men and women.

► Lower levels of glucose, insulin and fibrinogen levels in men.

► Lower incidence of metabolic syndrome in groups who exercised regularly or not. Metabolic syndrome is the net range of aliments that increase the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease

►Lower risk of heart attack

►Lower risk of all-cause mortality

The conclusion from the study was that living a generally active life involving gardening and other activities improved cardiovascular health and prolonged life expectancy, especially in older adults.

This applied irrespective of how much regular exercise was undertaken through walking and running sessions.

It highlights the dangers of prolonged inactivity and sitting down. Gardeners have a longer and more enjoyable lives.

Regular gardening has been shown to prolong life expectancy
Regular gardening has been shown to prolong life expectancy. Source:
Children love gardening as well
Children love gardening as well. Source:
Many women spend hours and hours gardening which stops them being inactive, which can shorten life expectancy.
Many women spend hours and hours gardening which stops them being inactive, which can shorten life expectancy. Source:
Cats enjoy it when their owners work in the garden. They mind the shoes!
Cats enjoy it when their owners work in the garden. They mind the shoes! Source: