Copeland Creek Riparian Restoration Exercise Project: Sonoma State University

students working a garden bed to grow native riparian plantsstudents hand mowing grasslandstudent team mowing grass

Project Description: Physical activity is a significant part of watershed restoration. Volunteer work crews clean up refuse, maintain paths, plant natives, and remove invasive species. These activities can potentially benefit the health of the participants. This project examines the physiological effects of self-paced restoration activities. We explore the importance of the type and duration of activity.

Duration: Spring 2013 - ongoing

Type of Educational Activities: Independent research

Project Faculty: Bulent Sokmen (Kinesiology)

Partners: Sonoma County Water Agency, City of Rohnert Park (Susan Haydon), Center for Environmental Inquiry (Suzanne DeCoursey)

Participating Courses: Physiology of Exercise (KIN 360) - 2 students (2013); 6 students (2014); 2 students (2015)

Location: This class project is conducted at Sonoma State University’s garden, Copeland Creek, and SSU's Fairfield Osborn Preserve.

Activities: Class participants performed various self-paced gardening-related activities, varying in physical activity intensities. During 2013 studies, resting heart rates (HR) were recorded prior to the activity to get baseline values and then every 10 min for 60 min. During 2014 studies, blood glucose, blood pressure and heart rate were recorded every 30 minutes for 2 hours and compared to resting and walking activities. During 2015 studies, heart rate, blood glucose, metabolic rate and mood for gardening/restoration activities were compared to walking and sitting.

Measurements are conducted by SSU students under the guidance of Dr. Bulent Sokmen.

Results Summary: When compared to walkers, people engaged in self-paced gardening/restoration activities (e.g., shoveling, raking, carrying dirt in a wheelbarrow, and placing leaves into a container) showed similar reductions in blood pressure, but burned more calories and sustained higher heart rates.

Data: (see data disclaimer)


Scientific Literature:

  • Fisher SL, Watts PB, Jensen RL, Nelson J. Energy expenditure, heart rate response, and metabolic equivalents (METs) of adults taking part in children's games. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2004 Dec;44(4):398-403.
  • Hilloskorpi HK, Pasanen ME, Folgelholm MG, Laukkanen RM, Manttari AT. Use of heart rate to predict energy expenditure from low to high activity levels. Int J Sports Med. 2003 Jul;24(5):332-6.