How gardening can make you 16lb lighter: Green-fingered women are up to a dress size smaller and have a better diet
- Women were 46 per cent less likely to have a weight problem
- Meanwhile gardening men were 62 per cent less likely to be overweight
- The differences could not be explained away by good genes
Those who spend their free time pruning the roses or pottering in the veggie patch are considerably trimmer than their non-gardening neighbours, a study showed.
Green-fingered women were a dress size smaller, while men who go to an allotment can expect to be around a stone lighter.
The researchers said that exercise is not the only benefit to be reaped by
getting out into the garden – home-grown fruit and veg can make your diet healthier into the bargain.
Previous studies have credited gardening with a host of benefits, from raising zest for life to boosting happiness. In the latest, the University of Utah researchers compared the vital statistics of almost 200 men and women who had tended plots for at least a year with the measurements of those who lived nearby.
Women can drop up to a dress size by getting active in the garden
The two groups had access to the same leisure facilities, such as parks, and had a similar economic status.
Yet the gardeners were clearly thinner, the Journal of Public Health reports.
The men were 62 per cent less likely to be overweight or obese as those who gardened, while the women were 46 per cent less likely to have a weight problem.
The analysis also showed that a woman who was a fairly average 5ft 5in tall and gardened was on average 11lb lighter than a non-gardening female neighbour. This equates to around a dress size.
Similarly, a 5ft 10in man who gardened was on average 16lb, or just over a stone, lighter.
The study found that the differences could not be explained away by good genes, as non-gardening brothers and sisters were not as trim.
However, husbands and wives appeared to benefit from the fruits of their spouse’s labour, possibly because they helped out in the garden or ate the produce at home.
Lead author Cathleen Zick, professor of family and consumer studies, said that having an allotment may be particularly beneficial, as people may feel extra pressure to keep their plots looking nice.
However, she expects tending a normal garden to also be good for weight.
Professor Zick, who has ‘a small backyard garden’, cautioned that her data was drawn from a single community.
But despite this, she said her results could be ‘of interest to urban planners, public health officials and others focused on designing new neighbourhoods’.
She added: ‘We know that obesity is costly.
‘This study begins to shed light on the costs and benefits of the choices families make about eating and physical activity.’
Georgie Willock, of the National Allotment Society, said that health benefits of gardening include aerobic exercise from digging and carrying, flexible joints from bending, vitamin D from the sun and the breathing in of clean air.
As a result, people are happier and fitter.
She added: ‘I am sure if a similar study was done in the UK, the results would be similar.’
Guy Barter, of the Royal Horticultural Society, said that gardening brings with it a sense of achievement.
He added: ‘It also raises the spirits. After a hard day at work, just pushing the lawn mower around is very cheering.’