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Tough and smart


March 18, 2012 by csukach

Gardening–surprise exercise for body and brain

By Chris Sukach

I’d venture to say most don’t consider puttering in the gardening an athletic or Einsteinian endeavor.

Running, hiking, even walking makes the list of aerobic activities, but in my mind gardening in its physical and mental strenuousness is but one step above reading a book on the beach.


Infographic about the benefits of gardening

Benefits of Gardening Infographic, by Loch Ness Water Gardens (Click for larger view)

It turns out even when not prying rocks from your yard, gardening can be a substantial form of exercise, especially for older folks.

In fact, according to at least one set of statistics, digging in the garden can do more for your cardiovascular health than walking.

According to Kansas State University horticulture professor Candice Shoemaker, gardening can also make older adults stronger.

“One of the things we found is that older adults who are gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force, which is a big concern as you age,” says Shoemaker.

Shoemaker and her colleagues cite research conducted in 1973 by Diane Relf as a possible reason for increased hand strength.

“Specific activities can be used to improve muscle coordination and to train unused muscles, for example, transplanting seedlings can be used to practice grasp and release and flexion of the thumb and forefinger,” says Relf.

And while children may not appreciate that increased cheek-pinching strength their grandparents now have thanks to tending plants, kids can benefit from gardening too.

Researchers from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service share that gardening is exercise for children who may not be into sports.

“An advantage of gardening as a form of physical activity in an after-school program is that it does not require athletic skill,” the report states.  “Children participating in this project commented that they enjoyed the gardening activities.”

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service researchers say physical activity has also been shown to have a positive impact on children’s academic performance, as evidenced by a 2005 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Likewise, Relf’s research found gardening improved adults’ vocabulary and communication skills as well as increased their powers of observation.

It seems all that weeding, digging and planting is not only good exercise, regardless a person’s age, it also makes you smarter.

I wonder what the goats have to say about that?


  1. Lucia, jardineras…

    […]Tough and smart | csukach[…]…

  2. Rosie Taylor says:

    Hmm… makes me wish my back patio had more room to grow stuff. Right now it’s got about 3 square feet of open ground. Your post is inspiring me to plant a few green things now so I can be smart and happy. 🙂

  3. csukach says:

    Ooh, maybe we should do a post about container gardening for your patio!

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