Essex project aiming to show how gardening can use as much energy as going for a jog or cycle ride

  • Victoria Lampard went along to meet the gardeners involved in the study.

Researchers at the University of Essex have been carrying out a study to show just how hard people work in the garden as they carry out certain tasks.  

Volunteers at the Together We Grow Garden in Colchester were fitted with equipment usually used to measure athletes as they pushed themselves to the limit.

Experts monitored oxygen levels, heart rates and movement to see how much energy was used for activities such as weeding, planting, watering and digging.

Dr Robert Southall-Edwards from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation, and Exercise Sciences, who is leading the study, said: "If we can show that some of the activities that people regularly do in the garden count towards their weekly exercise targets, then they could consider popping into the garden instead of going to the gym.

"That might encourage more people to pick up a trowel, watering can or spade in their free time and secure more funding for community schemes.”

Since the project began in November experts have found that the type of energy used for digging is similar to that of going for a jog, while weeding and watering provided similar levels to going for a gentle cycle ride or doing some weight training with dumbbells in the gym.

Volunteers taking part in the study by the University of Essex. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Volunteer gardener Trevor Birley said: "It's been interesting to see how they're trying to relate this to sport.

"I have been a bit of a sportsman in the past and I have to say wearing that kit and doing a lot of physical work in the garden you can equate to that quite easily."

The research has been welcomed by the team at Together We Grow CIC, which operates from a two-acre edible garden and orchard site within High Woods Country Park.

Founder Wayne Setford said: “If we can ensure that gardening is labelled as something that is much more active, there’s more versatility to the range of funding we can achieve [from] those big funders that do support sports and physical activity.”

Other volunteers at the project said they enjoyed the exercise they got from getting green-fingered.

Lyn Garrihy said: "I'm out in the lovely sunshine, getting loads of vitamin D but I'm still using up some energy and keeping fit."

Mick Drummond said: "Even the weeding... It's quite dry at the moment, even that does it and you're moving and also you're meeting people, which is very good."