Turning Gardening into a Workout

By Charlotte Bumstead
Looking for another excuse to get down and dirty this time of year? A blossoming landscape is not the only benefit to the gardener’s diligent efforts. Spring brings blooming biceps, too. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, the tasks required for planting a garden (such as standing, stooping, kneeling, watering and weeding), can burn more than 300 calories an hour. Whether mowing the lawn or planting lilacs, experts say the garden won’t be the only noticeable transformation; your body, too, will prosper.

Similar to any other workout, Zoomers must remember to mulch and dig with care. While gardening can have a tranquil affect, the movements can be quite vigorous. It is important to use safety precautions to avoid common back and knee injury, among others. Although it’s been a long winter spent shovelling the driveway, your body needs to be eased into unfamiliar activities. This is why it is essential to start slowly and progress a little more with each consecutive day.

Consider the following tips for utilizing gardening as a rewarding workout, while avoiding unwanted pain in the process:
–       Similar to any other physical activity, remember to warm up beforehand. Stretch your arms, legs and back for five minutes. Start with a 10-minute walk to increase your heartrate.

–       When in the garden, lower your centre of gravity by taking a boxing-like stance, advises Jeffrey Restuccio, martial arts expert and author of Get Fit Through Gardening. He also suggests increasing activity by adding lunges and moves from tai chi and tae kwon do to your traditional gardening routine.

–       Exercise physiologist Jessica Matthews cautions gardeners to be attentive to body mechanics. She reminds Zoomers to be sure to bend at the knees, and use leg muscles to perform good movement. She also points out gardening works both cardio (mowing the lawn with a push mower and raking leaves) and resistance (pulling weeds, hoeing and digging) components of fitness.

–       When carrying buckets of old leaves and plants for removal, try lifting the weight above your head and holding for 10 seconds, then slowly lowering; repeating 10 to 15 times. Increase weight or add reps over time.

–       As you are planting, slowly squat down while keeping your back straight and your heels to the ground. Keep your legs hip-width apart, toes forward, shoulders square and head up. Avoid rounding forward with your back. Try 10 successive squats and repeat three times (or for three plants).

–       Turn wheelbarrow runs into an aerobic challenge. Increase speed for quick bursts of time, including when climbing gentle to steep inclines, and then slow down gradually. The resistance of the wheelbarrow will crank up the intensity, and you’ll be breaking a sweat in no time.

–       Remember to take breaks—don’t overdo it. Listen to your body, and be sure to stay hydrated. You are losing twice the amount of water through sweating; both from exercising and the heated temperatures of the sun.

–       Have fun with it. Soak up the pleasure of being outdoors. Listen to your favourite pump-up tunes over outdoor speakers or through headphones for additional motivation.
Now, get out to the garden and let loose.