Gardening is a fabulous exercise option that allows you to get a workout, minus the “work.” Perhaps no other leisure time activity is as rewarding as gardening. It benefits the total person–mind, body and soul. In addition to the physical benefits, gardening can be an excellent form of self expression.
Visualize what you would like your garden to look like and then “paint” a living canvas. Focusing on the interesting sights, sounds, colors, fragrances and textures in the garden is also a great way to relieve tension and stress. So just get your hands in the dirt and soak up the fresh air and sunshine. “Playing in the dirt” can be very satisfying and provide a real sense of accomplishment. When all is said and done, few other activities can provide such a wide range of healthy benefits.
As we are all aware, regular physical activity is our best defense against obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and depression. A study at the University of Arkansas reviewed the health records of more than 3,000 women over the age of 50 to determine their susceptibility to osteoporosis. The researcher found that only one other activity built bone mass better than gardening–pumping iron! Regardless of gender or age, gardening is a physical activity that can improve a person’s strength, endurance, agility and flexibility when performed on a regular basis. It also helps to strengthen muscles not often used in other forms of activity.
With that in mind, save yourself some aches and muscle strains by doing some stretches and warm-up exercises before you start any strenuous gardening activity. If you are new to the gardening scene, don’t try to be a super hero. You may think you can place a large tree in a hole or lift a heavy boulder by yourself, but your body may tell you otherwise. Instead, use your common sense and plan a realistic course of action. Get someone to help you if necessary.
When gardening during summer, the heat can be brutal. You always should drink plenty of fluids before, during and after gardening. It is also a good idea to wear sunscreen and a hat that protects your face and neck. Clothing should be light colored and made from breathable fabrics. And make sure to bundle up for winter gardening. Durable gardening gloves will protect your hands from blisters and scrapes.
And last, but certainly not least, take breaks as needed. Bending over for long periods of time and repetitive activities can cause cramping, especially in the hands and back. Stretch tight muscles, sit down in a shady spot or squirt yourself with the water hose whenever you feel the need!