“Raking In” The Benefits of Gardening

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By : dLife Editors

By: Nicole Johnson, MA, MPH

Don’t you just love this time of year? The natural process of birth and growth in our environment is an amazing spectacle to watch every year.

It’s a magical time of planting, tending, and grooming the ground.

Did you know that gardening and diabetes are a perfect match?

Not only is vitamin D from the sun good for your mood, but the bending, prodding, and raking are good for your body and your diabetes.

We all know about the recent studies that show exercise and diet can dramatically reduce the development of type 2 diabetes in those at risk for the disease.

It is really common sense: eat less, move more.

But what about people who already have diabetes?

For those, science has proven that 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week can dramatically reduce the risk of complications associated with the condition, which includes heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.

Why is jumping around in an aerobics class or running on a treadmill for thirty minutes considered exercise, yet digging a hole for planting trees or shrubbery is deemed work?

Research shows that gardening is an ideal form of exercise because it includes so many of the basic merits of physical conditioning.

It is moderate and sometimes, strenuous — good for your heart and the boredom that often creeps in with exercise on a treadmill. It also incorporates many important elements of recommended exercise programs including stretching, stance, and repetition.

We shouldn’t forget that it also employs resistance principles similar to weight training. Who knew there was so much personal benefit to pulling weeds, digging, raking, and of course spreading fertilizer and compost.

Regular garden chores can burn anywhere from 100 to 250 calories each half hour.

To get started, we must review the basics.

Warming Up

With any exercise program, it is important to warm up. Your best bet is to start by stretching your arms and legs for five minutes. Here are some ideas:

  • Toe touches
  • Arm circles
  • Shoulder Raises


Since gardening is exercise, we also need to take diabetes precautions.

First, consult your health care team before beginning any form of exercise or strenuous activity.

Second, always test your glucose before starting any activity.

Especially when outside, make sure to drink lots of water and to have an emergency snack with you to treat potential lows.

It is important to constantly assess your body’s reaction to the exercise. When gardening, it is tempting to get engrossed in the project and to lose track of time and circumstances.

It is so important to keep track of time and diabetes needs.

More recommendations for “yard exercise”

  • Protect yourself from the sun. (sunscreen, sunglasses, hat)
  • Know your equipment and follow recommended safety procedures.
  • Protect your hands and feet. (Wear closed-toe shoes and sturdy gloves.)
  • Protect yourself from biting insects by wearing bug repellent. Bites can take longer to heal on people with diabetes.
  • Consider wearing a waist pack with glucose tablets and your meter inside.
  • Don’t forget why you garden – take time to smell the roses, listen to the birds, and feel the warmth of the sun.

Calories Burned While You Garden

We promised you this list, so here goes. These are for 30-minute time frames for a 180-pound man. If you weightless, you’ll burn fewer calories.

Sitting quietly – 40
Watering a lawn or garden – 61
Riding mower – 101
Trimming shrubs – 142
Raking – 162
Bagging leaves – 162
Planting seedlings – 162
Mowing with a gas mower – 182
Weeding – 182
Gardening with heavy power tools – 243
Mowing lawn with a push mower – 243

Updated by dLife Editors 11/18.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.