St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Green spaces, gardening & wellbeing: Exercise

Mental Health Gardening

This blog is part of a series based on the infographic by Decorative Aggregates. Read the previous posts here. In this month’s blog we are going to be looking at how being in a garden or out in nature can help us with exercising and keeping fit and healthy. Whilst this is obviously great for our physical health, being in nature also helps to improve our mental health.  Exercise releases endorphins and so does being in nature so why not combine the two!

When most people think of exercise they think of gyms, treadmills, weights or fitness classes but you can workout in your own garden.

It’s interesting to note that you don’t need to be exercising for hours on end to get a benefit from gardening, just 30 minutes regularly can be enough to benefit to your health and if you are in the garden you may not even realise how much physical work you are actually doing. When we are in our gardens there are many things that make us increase our heart rate and use our muscles, incorporating a variety of exercise types such as endurance, flexibility, and strength!  Activities such as digging, weeding, moving plant pots, lifting bags of compost, pushing a wheelbarrow, raking leaves and stretching or bending to reach things all help to provide a full body work out.

As with a ‘normal’ workout, it’s important to look after your body the same way, for example doing a gentle warm up to get your body ready for more strenuous exercise and being careful not to push past your abilities. It is also essential to know how to lift or carry things properly, by using your legs and keeping a straight back and not carrying more than you can manage. Vary your tasks and your movements to get the most benefit and to keep things interesting, for example you could start with some raking, then digging, then finishing with pruning. Your muscles may feel tired after gardening, but they shouldn’t hurt. Take it easy and listen to your body, have a break if you feel tired or change to doing something less strenuous.

We can also think about exercising our brain as well as our body, why not try to learn and remember bird calls, types of insect or different trees? Learning something new can give us a sense of accomplishment or pride, can improve our self esteem and can just be really fun! It can also give a purpose to your exercise, for example you could go for a walk and try and name the different types of tree you see whilst you are out.

Exercising whilst gardening is a great way to help improve your mental and physical health and at the same time helping improve your garden for wildlife so it is a benefit to you and nature! What could be better?

This piece was written by Freya Lovett who supports our Bearing Fruit group. If you are interested in joining our Ecotherapy programme you’d be very welcome.

21 September 2020 | Categories: Ecotherapy, Inspiration, Opinion Piece | Tags: ecotherapy, exercise, gardening, Learning, mental health, wellbeing