Running an allotment and gardening is not just a therapeutic hobby but also an excellent way to stay physically active. Often, when we think of burning calories, our minds gravitate towards gym workouts or intense cardiovascular exercises. However, gardening tasks, ranging from digging and weeding to mowing and pruning, can also offer significant caloric burn. But just how many calories does gardening burn?
I thought I would do some research into how many calories I burn a week when my GP asked me if I exercise; gardening sounded lame, but he really didn’t understand how much grafting I do on the allotment. Though I must admit I have paid for manual gardeners to dig out large shrubbs in our home garden.
1. Factors Determining Caloric Burn in Gardening
Before diving into specific numbers, it’s essential to understand the variables that can affect caloric expenditure during gardening:
- Body Weight: A person’s weight plays a significant role in determining the number of calories burned. Generally, heavier individuals tend to burn more calories during the same activity than lighter ones1.
- Intensity of Activity: Different gardening tasks vary in their physical demands. For instance, tasks like mowing and digging tend to be more strenuous than planting or watering.
- Duration: Naturally, the longer you garden, the more calories you’ll burn.
- Age and Gender: Age can influence metabolism, and there are metabolic differences between genders2.
- Environmental Factors: Gardening in hotter conditions can lead to increased caloric burn, though this can also raise health risks if proper precautions aren’t taken.
2. Caloric Expenditure in Common Gardening Tasks
Here’s a breakdown of approximate calories burned for common gardening tasks for a person weighing 155 pounds, as per the Harvard Medical School3:
- General gardening (e.g., light weeding, planting): 167 calories per 30 minutes.
- Mowing the lawn (with a hand mower): 205 calories per 30 minutes.
- Raking: 167 calories per 30 minutes.
- Heavy yard work (e.g., digging, hauling dirt): 220 calories per 30 minutes.
- Bagging leaves: 167 calories per 30 minutes.
It’s crucial to remember that these figures are approximate and will vary depending on the factors mentioned above.
3. Comparing Gardening to Other Activities
To provide some perspective, here’s a comparison of gardening to other everyday activities for the same 155-pound individual:
- Walking (3.5 mph): 149 calories per 30 minutes3.
- Bicycling (12-14 mph, light effort): 298 calories per 30 minutes3.
- General housework: 112 calories per 30 minutes3.
From the above, it’s clear that gardening is not only comparable to many standard exercises in terms of caloric burn but, in some cases, it can surpass them.
4. Benefits Beyond Caloric Burn
While the caloric expenditure is a great motivation to pick up the shovel and gloves, gardening offers numerous other health benefits:
- Muscle Strengthening: Gardening can work various muscle groups, particularly the arms, legs, back, and abdomen.
- Flexibility and Dexterity: Activities like pruning, planting, and weeding can enhance hand flexibility and fine motor skills.
- Stress Reduction: Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature and gardening can reduce cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone4.
- Cognitive Health: Gardening can help improve attention, reduce the risk of dementia, and promote overall cognitive well-being5.
Gardening is a holistic activity that offers both physical and mental health benefits. Whether you’re looking to shed some calories, strengthen muscles, or just find some tranquility, gardening is a fantastic choice. Remember, however, to always stay hydrated, wear protective gear, and know your limits, especially when gardening under the sun or doing particularly strenuous tasks.
- Plowman, S. A., & Smith, D. L. (2017). Exercise physiology for health, fitness, and performance. Wolters Kluwer Health.
- Gallagher, D., Heymsfield, S. B., Heo, M., Jebb, S. A., Murgatroyd, P. R., & Sakamoto, Y. (2000). Healthy percentage body fat ranges: an approach for developing guidelines based on body mass index. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 72(3), 694-701.
- Harvard Medical School. (2011). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities
- Van Den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. H. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of health psychology, 16(1), 3-11.
- Whear, R., Coon, J. T., Bethel, A., Abbott, R., Stein, K., & Garside, R. (2014). What is the impact of using outdoor spaces such as gardens on the physical and mental well-being of those with dementia? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 15(10), 697-705.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!