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Dig It! Yard Work and Gardening for Exercise

By Jenilee Matz
September 9, 2012; 9:05 AM ET
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Caring for your yard and garden can lead to dazzling grass, flowers and a wealth of herbs and vegetables. But a well manicured lawn can give you more than a sense of pride and tasty foods. Digging in the dirt can make you fit.

Doing yard work and gardening enhances endurance, builds strength, improves flexibility and helps to control weight. Working outside can also improve mental health. It helps to relieve stress, and seeing the results of your work can give you a feeling of gratification and accomplishment.

Your yard, your gym

Working in your yard can burn just as many calories as a moderate gym workout. Most types of yard work are forms of aerobic exercise, which helps your heart and lungs stay healthy. These activities also help strengthen muscles and bones:

- Raking and bagging leaves

-Mowing the lawn with a push mower

-Pushing a wheelbarrow

-Carrying wood

-Clearing land

-Hauling branches

-Laying sod

-Weeding

-Digging in the garden

-Shoveling snow

To get a total body workout, do a variety of yard work activities. For example, raking builds shoulder, chest and back muscles, while digging and weeding tones thighs.

Getting started

If your body's not used to working in the yard, see your doctor before grabbing that shovel. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.

Healthy adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most days of the week. That goal can be met by working in the yard. Spend a weekend afternoon bagging leaves or planting flowers, and weed for a bit on weeknights.

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