We all lead busy lives. Wake up, work, sit in traffic, make dinner for the family, let the dog out, and finally sit on the couch to catch the last few minutes of Jeopardy. The Mayo Clinic suggests that healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week (you should aim for around 30 minutes a day) but once you finally have a chance to catch your breath from running around all day (no pun intended), the last thing most people want to do is drive over to the gym.
Thankfully, a new study has revealed that there's another way to get in all your physical fitness for the week that doesn't involve a gym membership. Researchers across the globe have been studying a new term called, "leisure-time physical activity", which is essentially leisure time activities that get you moving without putting on yoga pants or working up a sweat. Simple ativities like gardening, walking the dog, or even dancing in the kitchen can greatly improve health!
Leisure-time Physical Activity
The study took eleven years to conduct and used nearly 90,000 participants who answered questions from the National Health Interview Survey, which is annually surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The results will make you think twice about traditional exercise and the amount of physical activity you are probably already doing.
According to the health study, doing leisure-time physical activities for only ten to sixty minutes a week can reduce your risk of all-cause mortality by 18 percent. In essence, doing something as simple as gardening for an hour a week lessened the chance of participants dying during the survey period.
Are you an overachiever? 150 - 299 minutes of leisure physical activity can lead to a 31 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.
Taking part in moderate-intensity activities have been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease, heart disease, blood pressure, along with decreasing your body mass index and lowering obesity. As always, please be sure to consult with your health care provider before taking part in various levels of physical activity.
Gardening Health Benefits
Gardening activities are the perfect leisure-time exercise, because they improve your health in a variety of ways. In fact, there's an entire profession dedicated to using plants and gardening to improve mental health and physical wellness, called horticultural therapy. Studies have shown that spending time in green spaces surrounded by fresh air reduces cortisol levels, which are your stress hormone levels. Along with reducing stress, gardening has been shown to reduce the use of medication in some seniors.
Having a vegetable garden provides a natural reason to be outside and soak up that vitamin D that we all need! Just make sure to use sunscreen if you'll be outside for longer than a few minutes. Another benefit of gardening is the beneficial bacteria found in soil, which boosts your immune system, fighting off illnesses and improving overall well-being. Community gardens are a great way to start out gardening, especially if you don't have space for garden beds in your yard, as community gardening is an easy and fun way to promote social health and unity within the community. This is especially important during the Coronavirus pandemic, when our social interactions are so limited.
Another amazing benefit of gardening is that it improves self-esteem and decreases depression and anxiety. It also helps your brain, boosting cognitive function and memory, which is especially important in older adults. Gardening has also been shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain, leading to a happier overall mood.
One of the most obvious positive effects of gardening is, of course, the food you get out of it! The dietary benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables are another important health outcome, as these provide many of the most important vitamins and nutrients for your health. There's nothing more satisfying than growing your own food in your own garden and making a delicious meal out of it. Starting a garden improves one's quality of life in a multitude of ways, far beyond the positive effects of simply starting a new hobby. If you're not sure where to start, grab this starter gardening kit!
This post was originally published on April 15, 2019.