Garden Your Way to A Healthy Heart

Garden Your Way to A Healthy Heart

Working around the house on things like gardening or chores can lower heart attack and stroke risks.

Think you have to run a 5K to keep your heart in shape? Think again: A new study shows that, for older adults, working around the house may be just as good for preventing heart disease and stroke as working out.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden tracked more than 3,800 people over the age of 60 for more than 12 years. They found that those who spent the most time actively gardening and doing DIY projects cut their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27%--and the risk of dying from any cause by 30%--compared to people who were least active.

The authors said daily, active routines and physical chores like gardening, housework, car maintenance and berry-picking are as important for older adults as regular, formal exercise. The study was published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine on October 28, 2013.

The dangers of sitting
Most exercise guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) each week. Many older adults find it difficult to exercise that long and that hard, the experts said. But staying in motion is vital to staying healthy. Prolonged sitting hikes cholesterol and blood pressure, slows your metabolism, weakens your muscles and stiffens your joints. Other studies have shown that people who are mostly sedentary have a higher risk of major health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Get up and go
If the idea of doing chores to get exercise sounds like, well, a chore, try these get-moving tips: 

  • Fidget. Make a point to get up at least every 30 minutes to do something—check the mail, stretch, get some water, anything. Pace while talking on the phone. Move around while watching TV.
  • Play a game. Interactive video games (think Nintendo’s Wii or the Xbox Kinect), which get you to act out sports from yoga to soccer, are growing in popularity among adults. Experts are studying how the games affect everything from driving skills to Alzheimer’s risk.
  • Get a pet. Studies have shown that dog owners are more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise.
  • Break it up. If you can’t exercise for 30 minutes at a stretch, don’t fret: Splitting it up into 10-minutes doses is just as good for your health.

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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