According to a recent study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, active hobbies like yard work and gardening were as good as going to the gym for heart health. Older adults with hobbies like this were able to cut their risk of heart attack or stroke and their chances of dying by 30%.
For the study, researchers monitored the health of about 4,000 60-year-old adults for 12.5 years. During this time, they underwent an initial health screening which included questions about their diet, smoking, alcohol, and activity habits. Various tests and exams analyzed their heart health, blood sugar, and more.
From the beginning, those who reported being the most active were less likely to have heart problems, no matter how much they “exercised” formally. These elders had smaller waists, lower blood sugar levels, lower clotting factors, and lower levels of blood lipids. The same was true for people who did a lot of formal exercise.
Throughout the study period, 476 of the participants had their first heart attack and a total of 383 died from a variety of causes. The researchers determined the highest level of daily activity was linked with a 27% reduced risk of heart attack or stroke and a 30% decrease in risk of death of all causes when compared with those who were the least active.
What does this mean? It means if you are an older adult, 2 hours of yard work may suffice instead of 60 minutes of a cardio DVD. It means you don’t have to put a title on your fitness, as long as you are staying active. Sure, if you don’t have a garden or a yard to care for, you might want to go with formal exercise, but if you are able to sustain high activity levels without a gym membership, more power to you.
And if you need some motivation to do some yard work, just think about how beneficial a food garden can be. Here is a post outlining some basic gardening tips, and here are 5 super easy-to-grow vegetables that can get you started on your gardening journey.
“This study is excellent news for large swathes of the population who might not want to run, swim or go to the gym because it clearly shows that even moderate, non-exercise activity like gardening benefits the health of older adults,” said Dr. Gavin Sandercock of the University of Essex. “We must be careful when generalizing of course, because older adults tend to be less fit, so gardening represents relatively hard exercise for them.”