National Gardening Exercise Day (June 6) is a perfect time to appreciate how gardening not only allows us to experience nature, but is also an excellent way to get some exercise. 

We know that spending time outdoors has a positive impact on our physical and mental health, but what you may not realize is that typical gardening activities can actually deliver a fun, low-impact full-body workout. 

Digging, hoeing and raking 

Moving dirt or raking leaves usually involves using long-handled tools and your bodyweight for leverage. While you may not realize it at first, these activities engage your core and other large muscle groups in your arms, shoulders and even legs.

Planting, harvesting and weeding 

A lot of time in the garden is spent down on your hands and knees digging, reaching and pulling. These kinds of activities are great at working all of the different parts of your arms like biceps, triceps, and shoulders. This can also build dexterity in your hands. Getting under a deeply-rooted tomato plant will also give you a surprising back and core workout. 

General garden care 

Working in the garden in the hot summer heat is going to work up a sweat and add to your cardiovascular endurance. Research shows that these different activities also help us train balance and dexterity, making gardening an excellent option for older adults looking for ways to stay active without a high risk of injury. 

Beyond the physical workout, there are a number of mental perks associated with gardening too.  

Planting and growing a garden can boost feelings of accomplishment and can build confidence as you learn and succeed at a new skill.  

Many people also report that gardening feels therapeutic and meditative, meaning it’s a great way to unwind on the weekend after a busy work week. There is a documented effect called ‘grounding’ that happens when we walk barefoot or put our hands in the earth or sand. Grounding can reduce stress and even improve immune response. One study even found that 30 minutes of gardening can reduce stress more than 30 minutes of indoor reading! 

Additionally, since gardening usually requires some time under the sun, it can increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D not only serves as a mood booster, but it's also an important nutrient for every single organ in your body. Just remember to wear a hat and sunscreen. 

Whether you’re a beginner botanist or already have a well-worked green thumb, consider spending more time in the garden to complement your fitness routine. If you have the space in your yard, there’s still time to grow some fresh veggies to enjoy over the grill in a couple months and to plant some seeds or annuals to bring colour to your patio or doorstep.