Can gardening be as good as exercise?
Gardening and other routine jobs around the house may be keeping your heart healthy.
Researchers recruited more than 4,000 Stockholm residents over the age of 60 and tracked them for 12 years. At the start of the study, the seniors took part in a health check, which included information on diet, smoking and alcohol intake.
Additionally, they were asked to report how many formal exercise classes they attended, as well as how often they participated in routine physical activities such as gardening and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
The study results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, reveal that the participants with more daily activities had a 27 percent lower risk of a heart attack or stroke and a 30 percent reduced risk of death from all causes, regardless of how much formal exercise they got.
“Our findings are particularly important for older adults, because individuals in this age group tend, compared to other age groups, to spend a relatively greater proportion of their active day performing non-exercise physical activity as they often find it difficult to achieve recommended exercise intensity levels,” the study authors said in their report.
Gardening and other DIY projects can be as good as exercise for the over-60s because these activities increase overall energy expenditure, according to Allison Soloman, senior physical therapist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“Prolonged sitting does not require any muscle effort and is not good for the body in general,” said Soloman. “Gentle mobility, such as gardening, provides increased blood flow to the tissues which allows for improved healing and repair.”
The study participants with more daily activities, even simple things like fruit-picking, had smaller waistlines, lower insulin levels and lower levels of bad cholesterol – just like people who were exercising daily. However, the authors note that those who were often physically active and exercised regularly had the lowest risk profile of all.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.