Get fit in the garden

By: Dr. Laina Shulman

Author: Canadian Living


Get fit in the garden

By: Dr. Laina Shulman

We all search out activities that allow us to stay fit while enjoying the beautiful weather in the summertime. What if I told you there is an outdoor activity that provides strength and cardio training while increasing flexibility? As well, this activity can relieve stress and provide fresh air. You get all that and you don't have to buy a piece of expensive workout equipment. Yes, you guessed it, the amazing activity is gardening.

Gardening is one of the few hobbies that people of any age can enjoy. It is the second most popular form of exercise in Canada, attracting 48 per cent of adults. Depending on what project or activity you undertake, it can be a gentle way to stay active or a very vigorous activity. You will be amazed at how many calories you can burn in half an hour:

Vigorous digging: 250 k/cal
Lawn-mowing: (not a ride-on!) 195 k/cal
Weeding: 105 k/cal
Raking: 100 k/cal

Good for your mind, too!
Gardening also has many psychological benefits. Quietly tending your garden or vegetable patch is a real stress-buster, helping relieve feelings of anxiety and giving you a break from the general rush of life.

Because the work is mainly physical, you have a opportunity to quietly think over any problems that are bothering you, or just spend an hour or two of luxurious day-dreaming! As the results of your work will usually be quite obvious, you'll also feel a sense of accomplishment.

Tips for the healthy gardener
While gardening is good for the mind and body, like any form of physical exercise it is important to take some safety precautions. Below are some tips for healthy gardening:

1. Stretch
Begin with gentle arm, back, neck and leg stretches before your gardening session. Take each stretch to the point where you feel tension in the muscle and hold it there for 20-30 seconds while you breathe calmly, then repeat. Remember to take stretching breaks throughout the time you spend in the garden.

Page 1 of 2 -- Six more gardening fitness tips on page 2.

2. Warm up
Start with easier chores like light hoeing before beginning a more strenuous activity, such as heavy digging.

3. Vary your activity
Use the 20-30 rule. Start slowly and gently, building up the intensity as you go. Work with about 20 to 30 repetitions of an activity, such as hoeing or raking, before resting about 20 to 30 seconds. Alternate activities frequently, approximately every 20 to 30 minutes. Using different muscles and motions is key to avoiding repetitive stress and injuries.

4. Lift properly
We've all heard it before but it is true, bend from your knees, keep your back straight and don't twist your body when lifting. There are times when it is necessary to bend over at the waist, strong, supportive abdominal muscles are the key to avoiding a strain in your back muscles.

5. Drink up
It's easy to get caught up in gardening activities and forget that the body needs replenishing with fluids, especially when you're outside in the sun. Drink a glass of water before, during and after your stint in the garden.

6. Cover up
If you are not sure what plants are in your garden, cover up your skin rather than come into contact with plants such as poison ivy and stinging nettle. Don't forget to wear a hat if it is sunny and use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.

7. Use the right equipment
Using equipment that properly fits is vital. Be sure to wear footwear that is both supportive and functional.

Now you know what gardening enthusiasts have known all along. Gardening is not only fun and good exercise, but also supplies you with some beautiful flowers or nutritious food. If you've been to too many summer barbecues or perhaps had an extra s'more around the campfire, don't worry. Pick up your hoe and shovel and get yourself warmed up, you will burn off those calories in no time!

Page 2 of 2 -- Burn calories as you beautify your yard. Find out how on page 2.

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Get fit in the garden