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Outdoor Fitness Workout Combining Gardening With Your Fitness Routine

Updated on October 23, 2017
Nancy Owens profile image

Nancy is an everyday woman with a love for staying active, participating in sports, and outdoor activities.

Ditch the Gym and Do a Gardening Workout


Digging With a Shovel Does A Body Good

In the 1940s and even 1950s, most people had very few power tools. Hard work builds strong bodies.
In the 1940s and even 1950s, most people had very few power tools. Hard work builds strong bodies. | Source

A Full Body Workout in The Garden for Any Fitness Level

Working in the garden does not have to be back-breaking drudgery. In fact, it may be the perfect exercise. You can adjust your garden activity to your own fitness level. You can challenge yourself or just gently work out the kinks in your body while tending your plants.

A garden workout will benefit you in several ways: Enjoyment of beauty and nature while meditating, improving your general fitness and muscle tone, saving money on groceries and eating the freshest, healthiest food available, and maintaining that mind-body connection.

How Gardening Builds Strong Muscles

Gardening builds strong muscles in a variety of ways.

First, you get the benefit of extended periods of continuous motion. This is very important if you are seriously overweight or out of shape. Beginners or people that have been away from the fitness arena for a while can really benefit from just waking up their muscles by gentle motion. This also helps to avoid injury that is common to the person who has gone a little soft.

Second, depending on the task, the various gardening activities use a variety of muscle groups as shown in the table below for using a shovel.

Garden Activity and Muscles Used

Garden Task
Garden Tool
Muscle Group Used
Level of Intensity
Working the soil, digging vegetables, digging out sod or weeds, Moving dirt or digging irrigation lines
Hip muscles, Thigh Muscles, Arm muscles, Abdominal Muscles, Back, shoulder and chest muscles. In fact, most all body muscles
If done for extended periods, this can be an intense, anaerobic exercise for your entire body. Think of it as interval training

An hour of gardening can put some zing in your fitness routine.

Garden Cleanup Gives Full Body Workout

Adjust your level of intensity to your fitness level when working in the garden.
Adjust your level of intensity to your fitness level when working in the garden. | Source

How to Get a Great Fitness Workout in Your Own Garden

You can get a great workout in your own garden with just a few tools and a willing spirit. Here are some tips and pointers to get you going.

Know your fitness level. When working outside, this can't be over-stressed. There are many professionals out there who can guide you in this. Take some time to find out where you are in the fitness spectrum. Use your first day of working in your yard and garden to gauge your fitness level. Does a little continuous activity make you huff and puff so that you can't catch your breath? Back off a little for a couple days. By this, I do not mean stop, just go at a little slower pace. Allow your body to take in the amount of oxygen it needs in order to support the exertion.

If you find that you can chuck shovels full of dirt without getting out of breath, you are at a higher level and may want to exert yourself more, and continue the exertion for a longer period of time. You get the idea here.

What is most important is to adjust the pace of your activity to your individual fitness level.

Vary Your Garden Activities Throughout Your Workout. Begin your garden workout with raking or light weed pulling. This will loosen your muscles and give you some gentle stretching, etc. Next, change to using a weed-eater around borders and shrubs, etc. to get some workout activity going in our obliques, shoulder muscles and hips. Then, after you are fully warmed up you could switch to a task like removing sod, and turning a patch of earth with a shovel at a brisk pace. If you are in really good shape you might want to use a push mower to cut the grass, and then finish up with some more gentle weed pulling or just walking around picking up clutter or things that drift into the yard with the wind.

Mind and Body Connection Benefits

Using gardening and yard work activities as fitness workouts can give you double the benefits. We are all familiar with the fact that exercise produces endorphin substances that cause us to feel more at ease, relieve stress, and in general, cause us to feel more relaxed and happy. The problem with most exercise is that it does not allow you to be very creative while those endorphin hormones are coursing through our veins.

Gardening allows you to work your body into production of those feel-good hormones and exercise your creativity at the same time. This can produce a very pleasant, meditative experience that lasts for hours after you have completed your workout. You can work out while allowing your mind to process the massive quantities of information you take in on a daily basis, all while creating your very own private produce stand, serenity spot, or functional yard and garden project.

More Garden Activities and the Muscles Used

Garden / Fitness Activity
Muscles Used
Level of Intensity
Weed / Brush Trimming
Obliques, Lats, Delts, biceps, triceps, leg muscles,
Low to Medium in intensity. The longer the activity is performed, the more isometric value of muscle toning.
Pulling weeds by Hand
No tools needed, just garden gloves.
Quadraceps, Hamstrings, Glutius Maximus, Hip Flexors, calf Muscles, back muscles, shoulder muscles, etc.
Low to medium. If you are struggling to pull a weed out of the ground, you should probably go get the shovel or fork. Working slow at low intensity and with small weeds this is a great way to stretch out the kinks. Step it up a bit and it can take the place of lunges and squats in your workout routine.
Raking grass, dirt, or weeds
Garden rake with tines, or a fan shaped rake for raking grass and weeds
Shoulder muscles, core muscles, hip and leg muscles are worked, not to mention arm muscles.
Pace yourself and continue this exercise for an hour or so if you are very fit. Work in short time blocks if you are just beginning. Can be low to high intensity.
Mowing the lawn with a push mower
Lawn Mower
Arms, hips, legs. Some core muscle usage.
You can treat this like a power walk or just a stroll. Either way you get the benefit of continuous motion. Sort of like going for a walk with a little extra resistance added in.

© 2014 Nancy Owens


Submit a Comment
  • sangre profile image

    Sp Greaney 

    6 years ago from Ireland

    I know a lady who has been gardening for 15 years and she is healthy and fit. She would spend all day outside doing it if she could. :) She says that's it is the best exercise anyone can get.

  • Nancy Owens profile imageAUTHOR

    Nancy Owens 

    6 years ago from USA

    My cats are my garden buddies. They like hanging out. Surprisingly, once I have planted the garden they do not try to go potty in it so that is good. BUT... if I plant flower bulbs and my my largest cat sees it, he will go behind me and dig them up to use a soccer balls, Lol!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Such a neat look at the health benefits of gardening! I've come to believe that real gardening is the best exercise there is, but hadn't thought through the details like you have presented in this hub. Good stuff… :) And, there's nothing like a sweet, nosey little gardening buddy to keep us company!

  • Nancy Owens profile imageAUTHOR

    Nancy Owens 

    6 years ago from USA

    Thank you. It's nice to hear from you.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I love this. How creative and original. Well done!


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