Trying to squeeze in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week can seem daunting — that’s a lot of time at the gym! But what if you could reap the emotional and physical benefits of working out through a favorite leisure activity, like tending to your garden?
A long-term study from researchers across the world—China, Texas, North Carolina—tracked something a bit easier, and more fun. They measured something called “leisure time physical activity,” done in varying weekly amounts, and compared it to the risks of various forms of death, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
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The study is unusual because it took place over such a long period; the researchers used eleven years of data and nearly 90,000 participants. The data all came from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual event done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That “leisure time physical activity” could include all sorts of stuff that’s more enjoyable than going to the gym, including gardening, dancing, and simply going for a walk. Compared to a sedentary lifestyle, doing these things for only 10 to 59 minutes a week led to an 18 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality—basically, less chance of dying during the survey period. More physical activity even further decreased that risk; 150 to 299 minutes of physical activity each week led to a 31 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.
Gardening has been previously linked to positive health changes; a big meta-review of previous studies found that gardening is linked to a decrease in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, along with increases in quality of life, life satisfaction, and a sense of community. Gardening has also been linked to huge benefits for the elderly, citing a reduction in falls, reduction in stress, and even reduced need for medications.
Also, it’s fun, and you get a bunch of vegetables or herbs or flowers from it.
This article originally appeared on Better Homes & Gardens.
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