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GardenSMART :: Gardening is the Ideal Workout

Gardening is the Ideal Workout

By Karen Weir-Jimerson, Costa Farms
Photograph courtesy of Costa Farms

Get fit AND get a beautiful garden! How? By gardening! It's a cross-training program that whips both you and your yard into shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control, gardening is considered moderate cardiovascular exercise. Weeding, digging, planting, raking, hoeing are exercise. If you garden doing these activities for 30 to 45 minutes a day, expect to increase your heart rate and burn 150 to 300 calories. Nice!

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Stretch First

Pulling weeds, lifting bags of mulch or stone, pruning shrubs or raking leaves involve areas of your body that may not get much attention during your daily exercise regime. So do warm up stretches first—just like you do at the gym. Exercise experts recommend a mix of movements to warm up before activities: upward arm stretches that help lengthen and loosen the muscles in your shoulders and back, bends from the waist that help increase flexibility of the muscles in the backs of your legs, and lunges to improve motion in your hips.

Intensify Your Workout

Spring garden clean up, planting, and landscaping chores will get you into shape. Pruning, digging, and turning over compost work the muscles in your arms, upper torso, core, and legs. If you want to get more of a work out, don't use convenience tools. For example, instead of using a wheelbarrow, pick up bags of mulch and carry them from your car to your garden. Use hedge pruners instead of electric ones. And walk behind a push mower instead of a rider or self-propelled one.

Inspect Your Garden Daily

A daily walk around your garden allows you to admire and inspect your garden—as well as nipping potential pest problems in the bud before they become a big problem. Just 15 minutes of leisurely walking burns 36 calories.

Burn Calories and Build Muscle

Gardening activities burn calories. According to HGTV, raking leaves for an hour burns 292 calories (which cancels out a Starbucks Grande Cafe Latte made with whole milk). Weeding or planting shrubs for an hour burns 306 calories. A great way to improve the tone in your arms and legs is by doing heavy landscaping projects, such as moving rocks or pavers. According to WebMD, heavy yard work such as landscaping and hauling soil burns as many as 600 calories per hour.

Stretch When Stiff

Do your shoulders feel stiff while you are pruning or planting? Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor at the University of Vermont recommends shoulder shrugs to help stiff muscles (Here's how you do shrugs: raise your shoulders upward, hold, then release). When on your hands and knees, planting seeds or bulbs, do cat stretches. (Tuck your head into your chest and straighten out your legs and arms.) Simple weeding chores allow you to stretch and pull, which flex the muscles in your arms and back.

Get Your Vitamin D

Outdoor gardening allows you to get Vitamin D the natural way—from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D, called the sunshine vitamin, helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, minerals needed for healthy bones. (It's estimated that more than 40 percent of American adults have a deficiency of Vitamin D.) Experts say that 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure (to arms and legs, not just face) provides the needed amount. Too much sun is bad. After your initial dose, use a hat and/or sunscreen to make sure you don't overdo it.



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