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Gardening qualifies as a sport

Posted on June 8, 2016 by Mark Cullen

“He shoots, he scoooorrrres!” What Canadian cannot relate to these words on some level? Like you, I enjoy sports, some sports more than others. I am a hockey fan (but not a player) and a golf player (but not a fan) and there was a time when I played a lot of squash, until my back objected. Now I am a spinner. Hardly a sport, but then, what is “sport” anyway?
Wikipedia tells us that the word “sport” comes from the old French word for “leisure,” with the oldest definition in English from around 1300 being “anything that humans find amusing or entertaining.” If that was all that it took to qualify for a sport, my Uncle Jim was good at it, getting all of us nephews and nieces to pull his finger. We were abundantly amused and entertained by the results.
The Council of Europe concluded that “sport” includes all forms of physical exercise, including those completed just for fun. If that is the case, then gardening definitely qualifies as a sport. If it isn’t fun, after all, why do it?
Get physical
In terms of physical activity, gardening takes the cake. Here is a brief rundown of many gardening-related activities and the relative calorie burn.
Iowa State University determined the following:
• Digging. Women burn 150 calories in a 30-minute period while men burn 197 calories.
• Mowing the lawn. Mowing with a push-type reel mower: Women burn 181 calories in 30 minutes, men burn 236 calories. Mowing with a rotary power mower takes a little less work, but not much: women burn 135 calories in 30 minutes and men burn 177.
• Planting transplants, shrubs and trees AND trimming and pruning: women burn 135 calories every 30 minutes, men burn 177.
• Weeding the flower beds and vegetable garden: women burn 138 calories every 30 minutes, men burn 181.
• Raking the yard and lawn: women burn 120 calories in 30 minutes and men burn 157.
All of this is to say that after an hour or so of gardening activity, regardless of what it is, I have earned one beer.
Competitive sport
Research shows that gardening for just 30 minutes daily will help you increase flexibility, strengthen joints, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lowers your risk for diabetes and heart disease and slows the advance of osteoporosis.
Some people will say that something has to be competitive in order for it to be a sport. But where does that leave anglers and hunters?
If catching fish or shooting a deer is a sport, then why not gardening? While there are competitive aspects to gardening like growing the largest pumpkin or creating the most original flower arrangement, isn’t there sport in clearing a garden of weeds? Creating a garden bed that is brimming with colour and attracts pollinators galore? I believe that there is more sport in gardening than there is in a lot of so-called sports.
Sportsmanlike conduct
If there is one thing that annoys me about “professional sports” it is the time-outs. Basketball would hold my interest for much longer periods if it were not for the infernal interruptions of play. The New York Times recently determined the actual time that the ball is in play in a typical NFL football game is 11 minutes. Replays take 17 minutes. This is insanity.
Gardening does not force us to take time out, except for good reason. Like when you need a rest, a drink, a stretch or a snack. If there is waiting between innings or activities in my garden, they are generally of my own choosing unless they are weather related. And there is sport in that, too: “I can get this job done before the rain comes, I can grow this even though I am pushing the growth-zone limits” — you get the idea.
In terms of being sportsmanlike, gardeners come out on top every time. Just ask one. Ask a gardener anything (that has to do with gardening) and chances are you will get a warm, detailed response from which you can learn important things, like don’t feed your herbs and be sure to use lots of compost on your tomatoes, reduce weeds using bark mulch and the list goes on. In fact, the responses are almost as endless as the rules of golf.
The “sport” of gardening? Why not? The sports channel on TV, sports section of the newspaper and the sports field at the local school could take on new meaning. Imagine.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, “The New Canadian Garden” published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook.

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