Project Body Smart | Pulling, Bending, Pushing and Lifting: How Working Out Can Help You in the Garden


Pulling, Bending, Pushing and Lifting: How Working Out Can Help You in the Garden

Amanda Hockley loves gardening in her backyard.

“I find it meditative, and I can leave all my worries behind me,” says Amanda, 59, an administrator in a law firm.

But a couple of years ago, painful arthritis began getting in the way of her favorite hobby – which requires stamina, flexibility and strength. Since exercise can relieve arthritis pain, Amanda joined a fitness studio for small group training sessions a year ago.

Now, not only is she strong and ready for gardening’s rigors, but she also enjoys nightly walks and occasional runs – and has dropped 70 pounds, a third of her weight.

Amanda learned what health professionals and countless gardeners have known for decades: Gardening is a good workout that also helps maintain joint function, relieve stiffness, and improve balance and endurance. It also fights depression, provides vitamin D, and provides an outlet that can be social and creative.

If you think gardening doesn’t qualify as exercise, think again. An hour can burn up to 300 calories. And it’s a full-body workout — bending over to pick up pots, squatting to pull up weeds, pushing wheelbarrows, raking, and carrying items, some of them heavy.

Come talk to us about getting your strength, endurance and agility ready for gardening. You don’t want to injure yourself in the yard; lower back and knees are the most common sore spots.

Pursuing “functional fitness” is a great strategy for many, mimicking the same movements performed in real-life activities, like gardening. Sometimes it’s best to exercise in a gym or studio, but you also can get a great workout at home, once you know what to do.

Here are some common exercises for gardeners:

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Deadlifts
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Single-arm rows

Author Jeff Restuccio suggests gardening in a structured routine to improve the workout benefits. Alternate light activities with heavier ones – rake, then dig, then prune, for example.

He and others also urge the importance of stretching, deep breathing, taking frequent breaks and remembering to drink plenty of water.

If you’re still not convinced that gardening is exercise, here is the word from the National Institute of Health. Gardening for 30 to 45 minutes gives the same moderate-intensity benefits as playing volleyball for 45 to 60 minutes, walking 1.75 miles in 35 minutes, and shooting baskets for half an hour.

Our friend James learned that the hard way last summer when he visited his mother.

He’s no gardener, and when he saw that tall weeds had overtaken his mom’s flowerbed, he decided to take care of it for her.

“I thought it would be a quick, easy job,” he recalls with a laugh. “But I found out otherwise. My back was sore, my arms were sore, I was sweating like I was on the treadmill – and I had barely made a dent in the flowerbed!”

James organized a three-man crew to finish the job.

Sources: National Institute of Health, WebMD, P. Allen Smith Garden Home

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