Man pruning garden
Finding enjoyable and manageable gardening activities can help your long-term rehabilitation, recovery and wellbeing.

There is always something to do in the garden or enjoy in nature. When you start out, you may decide to begin with gentler activities. As your strength and confidence grows, you could in time choose more physical ones.

Man and boy gardening together
A man and boy gardening together

If you have heart disease, it’s important to take some precautions to reduce stress on the heart.

These tips may help before you start gardening:

Start slowly

It might be tempting to go straight into a more physical activity, like digging or mowing. It’s a good idea to start slowly with more gentle activities and build up over time.

We have a whole host of activity ideas below for different energy and physical levels.

Check the weather

If it is a very hot and humid day, this can make any physical activity more demanding. You may opt for gentle activities on these days, or garden during the early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler.

Be prepared

A little preparation can make all the difference. Take the time to warm up. Some gentle stretches or a short walk around the garden are good options. It’s also a good idea to warm down again once you are done.

Bring all the tools and equipment you need to where you will be working. This avoids making lots of trips to get things.

Avoid strain

Lifting heavy things, or bending uncomfortably for long periods, can cause strain. Make sure you are working comfortably, with good technique. Bend from the knees and not the waist, to reduce strain on the heart and back. Try not to stay in any one position for too long.

Lightweight and ergonomically designed garden tools may be helpful. Read our guide to gardening tools when you have heart disease for advice.

Manage timing

Be sensible about how much you can manage. It’s usually better to do little and often.

Regular breaks can help you avoid strain and stop you getting too tired. They are a welcome chance for a drink and bite to eat. Staying hydrated is important.

Gardens are very forgiving – you can always leave something for another day.

Consult with a medical professional

It may be a good idea to speak with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting gardening. They can help advise on the level of physical activity that is ok for you.

Pricking out separating seedlings
A person pricking out and separating seedlings

You may find, particularly when starting out, that it is more comfortable to garden from a seated position. All of these activities can be enjoyed while seated. Most could also be done inside.

After each activity, we have included the suggest time of year. Many can be done most of the year around.

Watering a gooseberry plant indoors
Watering plants indoors

These activities involve a fairly light level of activity. They are good to choose if you are rebuilding strength, or are feeling lower on energy.

  • Watering plants indoors (most of the year)
  • Deadheading (spring, summer, autumn)
  • Flower arranging (spring, summer, autumn)
  • Weeding in raised beds or containers. Weeding in the ground is a more physical task than containers or raised beds. (most of the year – rarely needed in winter)
  • Filling bird feeders (winter / all year around)
A person rakes leaves using a green leaf rake
A person rakes up leaves from the lawn

If you feel you would like to and are able to manage some more physical tasks, pick from one of these.

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Cutting things and moving things around are good physical exercise. It gets the blood flowing.

Participant, Thrive Just 30! Initiative
Tea outside garden
Two people have a drink outside

Enjoying gardens doesn’t have to mean doing activities. There can be great enjoyment and inspiration from time in nature:

  • Spend quiet time outside. Try standing in your garden in silence for five minutes, enjoying nature and your thoughts
  • Make a creative work. This could be a piece of nature writing, a photograph of birds or a pencil sketch of a plant. You could share your creation with friends and family
  • Doing something you normally do inside, outside. That could be a drink or bite to eat, reading a book or having a conversation. Just being outside can sometimes be more freeing
  • Engage your senses. Think about what you are experiencing in terms of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. You could do this outside in the garden, or indoors with houseplants and kitchen herbs.

Gardening for me is a wonderful thing, a wonderful experience. It’s great to be outside, it’s very therapeutic.

Camilla, client gardener
Sunflower seeds being poked all over an apple
A person makes a homemade apple bird feeder

If you want or need to be inside, there are plenty of ways to still get the benefits of gardens and nature:

  • Explore a seasonal nature box. Fill it with interesting items from the garden, or collect items on a short walk
  • Enjoy the view from your window. It helps if you have interesting plants or bird feeders in sight of the window
  • Watch videos of wildlife or birdsong online. This video, for example, includes sounds of nature from a bluebell woods
  • Build your knowledge by reading gardening magazines and books. You may get some inspiration for next time you’re in the garden
  • Press flowers
  • Enjoy homemade herbal tea – even better if you’ve grown the herbs yourself!
  • Make a simple homemade bird feeder
  • Create lavender bags. You could gift these to friends and family
  • Make your own bouquet garni

Just having space is important for me … some days I may not leave the house, but I have a view of the garden which is good.

Kirstyn, home gardener

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