Why isn’t gardening included in exercise tech?


My husband and I were early adopters of Apple watches when they were first introduced in 2015. I now have a series 3, which can act independently of the iPhone, (solving what had always been a drawback). One of the basic ways I use the watch is as an activity tracker, which it does very well, including the stylish graphics you would expect from Apple. But—like other activity trackers—the watch does not acknowledge gardening as a physical activity. If you look under “other,” you can choose a wide variety of activities that are well off the mainstream, including cricket, archery, and water polo. No gardening, though it will, of course, track general exercise measurements while you’re working outside. Other devices have been known to categorize heavy gardening as “sport,” and “outdoor bike.”

Nobody reading this blog needs to be told what kind of physical work gardening is. And there are peer-reviewed university studies that have measured the bulk of gardening activity as equal to brisk walking, i.e., moderate–strenuous, which is exactly the type of activity recommended most.

Gardening is exercise! It would be easy enough to add it to the lists on devices, maybe even as modestly as two categories, taken from one of the studies. One could be digging/hand mowing and the other could be planting/trimming. Or something like that. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that more people in the US—and yes, maybe even in the UK—engage in those activities than in cricket.

And a rave

Did you notice that the Google Doodle acknowledged the 174th anniversary of Gertrude Jekyll’s birth yesterday? When I think of the typical English garden, I think of the work by Jekyll (with Edwin Lutyens) that I saw at Hestercombe (above) in 2004. I would love to revisit it. Actually, 2004 is looking pretty good overall.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. My Fitbit counts steps and I can easily meet my goal of 10,000 steps (4 miles) easily when working in my garden.

  2. In my small 1/3 acre garden, I can easily exceed 8,000 steps in four hours. So in the heat of summer, I skip my morning walk and get to work in the garden. My firm upper arms are my reward! I do understand that it would be difficult to come up with an average number of calories burned in gardening, because it encompasses so many different activities.
    Enjoyed your article!

  3. You should send your post to Apple and ask them to consider it. Love your writings here and you always make me think! As well as smile.

    Diane in Denver
    Member, Denver
    Botanic Gardens
    Which you must come out
    And see! (All of you)

    • Thanks and we ARE coming to Denver, all of us, in 2019 for the Garden Blogger’s Fling. The host committee includes (among others) some of the folks at Botanical Interests.

      I hope to meet you then!

  4. The MapMyRide app includes Gardening and Mowing the Lawn (both riding and walking, though I wonder how many calories one burns on a riding mower) in its activities list. I will log a gardening workout when I’ve been in the yard for hours and can barely run a bath.

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