Six ways gardening can help you live longer

Good news for those of a green-fingered persuasion: research reveals that an hour of gardening a week can have significant health benefits.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine study found that taking part in muscle-strengthening activities – such as lifting weights, resistance training, or gardening activities including digging and shovelling – for 30 to 60 minutes each week, has been linked to a reduced risk of premature death and some major diseases.

However, pottering around with a few plants isn’t enough to make a difference. The researchers specified ‘heavy gardening’ and said that people reap the most benefits when they participate in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Fitness experts reveal the best gardening jobs to boost your physical wellbeing.

1. Digging

man digging with a shovel

“Digging is one of the best gardening jobs for building overall strength,” says Alice Williams, qualified personal trainer. “The motion of pressing a shovel down with your foot and turning over the soil engages a whole range of muscle groups in both the lower and upper body, from the quads to the shoulders.”

2. Weeding

It may not be the most enjoyable part of gardening, but weeding by hand is an effective strength exercise.

“When you bend over to pull out a dead rotten root from a flowerbed, you have to use a lot of back and leg strength, alongside grip strength too,” says performance coach Jamie Lloyd, which is similar to doing deadlifts in the gym.

“Deadlifts are great, as they tax the whole body and replicate the same movement when you go to pull that giant turnip out of the ground – a great lower body pull exercise that will prepare you for anything.”

3. Mowing the lawn

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As long as you’re not cruising on a ride-on mower, cutting the grass is another great strength-building gardening job.

Ms Williams says: “It has all the same benefits of pushing a prowler sled in the gym. It requires engaging your glutes, quads, hamstrings, core and upper body all at once, making it a tough full-body workout, similar to using a cross trainer machine.”

4. Lifting and carrying

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“Carrying bags of compost, soil amendments, stones or vegetables in front of you strengthens your glutes, quads and entire midsection,” says Mr Lloyd, so try ditching the wheelbarrow and ferrying bits and bobs across the garden yourself.

Do be careful not to overload yourself, and always bend at the knees when lifting anything off the ground.

“You might be familiar with doing the farmer’s walk with a kettlebell at the gym,” says Ms Williams. “Carrying two buckets of soil across your garden can have the same results!”

5. Raking

Woman raking leaves

Not only will it make your lawn look pristine, raking away fallen leaves gets your muscles moving.

“The motion of raking will work your whole upper body, but particularly the back and pectoral muscles,” says Ms Williams.

Mr Lloyd likens raking to ‘row’ exercises, where you bend over and pull dumbbells close into your chest: “Rows are like inverse push-ups. Everything a push-up does for your chest and pushing ability, rows do for your back and pulling ability.”

6. Cardio

Queer Planting GIF by SUPA FLOWA - Find & Share on GIPHY

“As well as building muscle strength, gardening is also a great form of cardio,” says Ms Williams.

“Without even realising it, you will find yourself raising your heart rate and working up a sweat as you dig, mow and move heavy things around the garden. In fact, raking and pruning can burn around 200 calories an hour, while mowing can burn up 300 calories.”

Do you enjoy gardening? Do you think it gives you a workout? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Five beginner gardening questions answered


  1. Gardening gives one a great workout. We live on 5 acres with lots of gardens and vege beds and since we moved here 10 years ago I have lost 12 kg. The only downside is that as one gets older the body begins to have problems probably from all the different types of exercise required in gardening; e.g. knees, hips and back.

  2. I can certainly attest to the benefits of gardening. I have 2 levels in my spine that need fusing, due to a workplace injury 22 years ago, but through a pain management program and regular exercise I, hopefully, will be able to avoid surgery. I have a large garden, no grass(even on the nature strip) and lots of fruit trees, shrubs, perennials and vegetables in raised beds. Yes, it is a lot of work but I can’t imagine not doing it. Two older medical staff told me I should cut back on my workload and only garden from the waist up. However, that is a ridiculous suggestion as most gardening is the opposite, from the waist down. Apart from non addictive pain killers for those “heavy” days in the garden I take no meds other than for reflux. At 72 I think this evidence speaks volumes in favour of gardening as a health measure. Onwards and upwards!

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