Dig this! Gardening's good for body and mind

Gillian Cooper
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We always knew gardening was good for us - to an extent. All that fresh air and sunshine is far better than being cooped up indoors all spring.
However, we were genuinely taken aback to discover this week that the physical activity associated with wielding a rake alone has the same toning impact as using a rowing machine at the gym.

In fact, according to The Telegraph, some 45 minutes worth of gardening can burn as many calories as half an hour of aerobics. Too vague to sound convincing?

The newspaper broke down common garden chores to prove the point, listing the number of calories burned by a person weighing 12 stone over a 30 minute period.

Some of the common garden chores and the calories that you can expect to use up include:

·  Shovelling heavy snow: 364 calories

·  Weeding: 182 calories

·  Planting seeds: 162 calories

·  Bagging leaves: 162 calories

·  Watering the grass: 61 calories

In fact, these benefits extend far beyond merely getting into better shape: they can cut your risk of suffering a heart attack and stroke by 27% too. That's the conclusion of a Swedish study of 4,232 people published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Elderly people who use gardening to combat an otherwise sedentary lifestyle are particularly likely to reap dividends. Being active outdoors slashes the risk of death from any cause by 30%, the 12-year study found. Gardening can also help:

 ·   Reduce risks of diabetes

·   Lower stress and depression

·   Maintain healthy cholesterol levels

·   Promote a healthy heart

Christopher Allen, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told the BBC: "Being physically active is important in maintaining good heart health. But, as this study demonstrates, you don't need a gym membership to do that. As long as they make you feel warmer, breathe harder and make your heart beat faster, activities such as... gardening count towards the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity [weekly] activity recommended for a healthy lifestyle."

But if the thought of wheeling the mower out of the garage is still making you involuntarily shudder, fear not. Just looking at the garden is therapeutic, according to the Daily Mail. In fact, that upbeat feeling we get from smelling the roses or spying a robin on the bird table is such a kick, it's even got a pseudo-scientific categorisation: 'horticultural therapy'. So impressive are the positive effects of pottering in the garden on mental health, the treatment is used on groups of people as diverse as patients suffering Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to those recovering from physical trauma.

So the next time you're tempted to wheedle your way out of the weeding, bear the above in mind. From longevity to a lighter mood, growing your own really is the good life

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