by Anne Meore
You hear it often – physical activity is critical for good health. But, if conventional exercise makes you want to go back to bed, try thinking of the garden as your gym. Gardening builds endurance, flexibility and strength. Spending time with Mother Nature also reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and decreases feelings of depression.
Of course, it’s important to garden safely. Check with your physician if you have a medical condition, dress properly, wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and use tools that are properly maintained. Also pay attention to heat and know your limits. If you have not been active lately, get started by gardening for just a few minutes and gradually increase time and intensity. Work your way up to 30 minutes four times a week to make it count as “productive” exercise.
Here are five tips that can make working in a garden also work as exercise:
- Stretch, lunge and reach to increase flexibility, balance and range of motion.
- Squat to strengthen your thighs, hips and derriere.
- Rake and dig at a steady pace to build endurance. Double digging (dig down a foot, turn the soil over, then down another foot, bringing that soil to the top) is particularly strenuous.
- Use manual tools, like clippers and trimmers instead of power tools to boost strength.
- Practice conscious breathing by taking complete breaths. Slowly inhale and fully exhale while planting, weeding, digging, lifting, etc. to increase oxygenation.
Anne Meore is a horticultural therapist who works at Good Samaritan Hospital’s Bon Secours Charity Health System Garden as Projects Coordinator.