Gardeners can reap fitness along with plants
Gardens can be great training grounds for fitness buffs.
Add trails for jogging. Build benches for workouts. Use trees and fence posts for stretching. Lose even more calories by squatting or lifting while weeding, planting, hauling and digging.
You can personalize your garden to fit your energy level. Equipment such as exercise beams and conditioning ladders are inexpensive and simple to make, while portable gear like weighted rollers, jump ropes, dumbbells and Swiss balls can be eased into the routines.
"If you have children's play equipment, it is easy to add a pull-up bar or climbing frame for adults to a tree house," said Bunny Guinness, a landscape architect who runs a garden design business near Peterborough in central England.
Gardening in and of itself can be a formidable calorie burner, said Guinness, who with physiotherapist Jacqueline Knox wrote "Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness" (Timber Press. 2008).
Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many illnesses, and gardening can provide it, said Margaret Hagen, an educator with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
"Raking is like using a rowing machine," Hagen said. "Turning a compost pile is similar to lifting weights. Carry a gallon sprinkling can of water in each hand and you've got 8-pound dumbbells. Pushing a lawnmower is like walking on a treadmill, only much more interesting."
Even more calories are burned when calisthenics are included in the mix. Add push-ups, chin-ups, bridging, power lunges and dips to the workouts.
Warm up before you begin to avoid cramping and joint pain. Pace yourself. Hydrate, especially if you're gardening out in the sun. Avoid bending by using telescoping pruners, edgers and weeders. Opt for lightweight and easy-to-grip hand tools.
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