Gardening as fitness

Did you know you can reap almost the same health benefits from gardening as you would from a workout in the gym? And it isn’t just your body that gets healthier, your mind and emotions benefit as well.

And a fabulous gym is much closer to home than you think – in your very own garden, in fact.

Turning compost is essentially lifting weights. Raking is like using a rowing machine. Pushing the mower is similar to walking on a treadmill. The exercise machines are post-hole diggers, shovels, rakes, push mowers, and wheelbarrows. The running track is the yard and garden itself.

Gardening as fitness can burn up to 300 calories an hour. You work your major muscle groups as you dig and turn the soil. Lifting and carrying bags of soil and moving compost from the bin to the garden uses lots of energy. Digging plantiGardening as Fitnessng holes and carrying plants from the car to their new homes fully uses the back and leg muscle groups. (But always remember to push up with your legs to protect your back.)

Weeding and pruning is a great workout for your arms and legs, as you squat and lunge to reach different plants. Be sure to re-position yourself frequently to distribute the work to different muscles, and avoid the twisting that can lead to pulled muscles.

Also avoid staying on your knees too long, or hunching over for long periods, which will strain your back and neck muscles. Take frequent breaks, look up at the sky and stretch out by pruning some shrubs. By varying overhead pruning activities with the bending that weeding involves, you’ll take a load off specific muscles and get in a little “cross-training”.

Recently The Wall Street Journal reported that mowing your lawn may be the new aerobic exercise. When you use an old-fashioned push-mower, you burn up to 400-500 calories per hour. With a power mower, you’ll burn as much as 250-300 calories per hour. The muscles you use to push and pull the mower work and tone the chest, biceps, triceps, back and shoulders. Butt and thighs also get a good workout. Cardiovascular and fat-burning effects come from the increased heart rate and heavy breathing that mowing requires.

As a healthy lifestyle activity, gardening offers significant health benefits to people of all ages. Research indicates that 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise such as gardening lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, helps prevent diabetes and heart disease, and prevents or slows osteoporosis.

Gardening as fitness is great for unwinding after a difficult day. It’s an excellent way to divert the mind from the conflicts of family or work, hence it relives damaging stress and allows your mind to relax.

And unlike most other forms of exercise, you can take time to smell the roses.