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Get Fit in the Garden

Take advantage of the gym growing outside your front door!

Gardening Health Tips continued...

Jeff Restuccio has his own "aerobic gardening" program:

  • Warm up your muscles for 5-10 minutes before you garden.

     

  • Stretch (especially the legs, hips, shoulders, and neck) for 5-10 minutes. Stretching will help relieve back strain and muscle soreness and avoid injury.

     

  • Garden using a variety of motions at a steady pace. Plan out your gardening exercise session to include a variety of movements such as raking, mowing, weeding, pruning, and digging, and alternate between them often, every 15 minutes, for example. Here are six different motions or techniques to rake, hoe, and weed:

     

    • Bend one leg, knee down to the ground, keeping the other foot flat. Use a hand tool.
    • Bend both legs and kneel on a soft pad. Use a hand tool.
    • Squat with both feet flat on the ground. (Don't do this if you have bad knees.)
    • Lunge and weed (Restuccio's personal favorite). Using a hand weeder, lunge with one leg bent at the knee in front of you and one leg bent straight back.
    • Sit and weed. If your knees, feet, or legs won't permit much bending, then sit and garden. Exercise your arms and waist. Use long-handled tools.
    • Stand with knees bent and your back straight and rake in a broad, sweeping motion using your legs. While raking or hoeing, use long-handled tools so you won't have to bend over to use them.

     

  • Stretch again after you have thoroughly warmed up your muscles with 15-20 minutes of steady raking, hoeing, weeding, planting, or mowing.

 

  • Cool down after your gardening exercise session by walking or picking flowers or vegetables.

As beneficial as gardening is, you still need to take some precautions. For starters, "always, always, always bend from your knees and not your back," says Restuccio.

Stay Protected

If you're gardening in the bright sunlight, wear a hat, cover your neck, and liberally apply sunscreen, says Nardozzi. Wear light colors that won't absorb the heat and wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet. If you live in an area with a lot of mosquitoes, try to plan your gardening activities during the early morning, or use insect repellent. Keep your eyes open for wasps' and hornets' nests. And make sure you stay well hydrated by keeping a bottle of water nearby -- your plants aren't the only things that should be watered!

The advantages of gardening as exercise, says Restuccio, are that you don't have to be perfectly fit or a perfect gardener. "You just have to get out there, and something will happen. You'll get healthier, and you may even grow something!"

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Reviewed on April 14, 2005

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