Now you have another great excuse to play in the dirt.

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The list of health benefits you get from exercising is a long one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety, help you sleep better, and assist in managing your weight. The Mayo Clinic notes that adults should aim for "at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity" per week, and those numbers can seem pretty daunting. But according to research, tending your garden might reap the emotional and physical benefits of getting sweaty with a workout. (That weekly exercise goal doesn't seem too bad now, right?)

Smiling woman picking organic cauliflower in garden
Credit: steve brookland/Westend61/Adobe Stock

A long-term study from researchers across the world, including 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 to see if it had an affect on longevity. The study is unusual because it took place over such a long period; the researchers used 11 years of data and nearly 90,000 participants. The data all came from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual event done by the CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That "leisure-time physical activity" could include all sorts of stuff that you may find 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% lower risk of all-cause mortality. That means there's less chance of dying during the survey period. More physical activity further decreased that risk; 150 to 299 minutes of physical activity each week led to a 31% 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 to enjoy fresh vegetables, herbs, or flowers from it.

By Dan Nosowitz and Jennifer Aldrich

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