June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day…Well, I guess I missed that date, but while researching information on the internet I ran across the following. It was written by Jeffrey Restuccio. He is a nationally recognized author and speaker on the subject of gardening and exercise. (Just up my alley!)
Jeffrey has written books such as “Get Fit Through Gardening” and “Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way”.
Now don’t feel that you have to “go for the burn” or exercise in the garden aerobically every time. Modify the program to meet your individual needs. At the very least, using these techniques will help reduce back strain and muscle soreness so often associated with gardening.
1) Warm up your muscles before you garden for five to ten minutes.
2) Stretch for five to ten minutes. Yes, stretch before you garden! Stretching will help relieve back strain and muscle soreness and avoid injury.
3) 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 fifteen minutes, for example.
- Bend one leg, knee down to the ground, keep 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 (my 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 you’re 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.
Don’t bend from the back as you rake or hoe. If you make just one change, this should be it. Bend from the knees and use your legs, shoulders and arms in a rocking motion. Also alternate your stance between right-handed and left-handed. Alternating stance balances the muscles used. These techniques require time and practice but after a period of seasons it will become a natural part of your gardening routine.
Get Fit Through Gardening is comparable to working out at the spa and before you leave, you’re handed a basket full of fresh strawberries, power-walking to the supermarket and receiving a ninety percent discount on fresh tomatoes, or cycling twelve miles and coming home each time to a fresh garden salad. It’s the ultimate cross-training activity!
4) Ideally, you should stretch again after you have thoroughly warmed up your muscles with fifteen to twenty minutes of steady raking, hoeing, weeding, planting or mowing.
5) Cool down after your gardening exercise session by walking, picking flowers or vegetables or just enjoying the fruits of your “exercise.”
Just remember these key points:
- Follow the Aerobic Model as often as possible.
- Avoid all-day marathon gardening sessions on weekends (space it out)
- Always bend from the knees and not your back.
- Alternate your stance and motion as often as possible.
- Use long-handled tools for raking or hoeing and kneel or sit while using hand tools.
For more information contact your Local or State Garden Club Chapter. Of course before you begin you should make sure you have your compression stocking or compression socks on. When you finish your “yard exercise”, you want to be happy that you choose to begin this endeavor.