You’ll work out all your major muscle groups when raking, digging and planting for an hour. Include gardening as a major component of your workout schedule. You’ll stretch and strengthen muscles while promoting cardiovascular health and maintaining bone mass. A University of Arkansas study found that yard work as well as weight training more significantly maintained bone density than aerobics, dancing or bicycling in women over 50.
And for those of us trying to lose weight, add 30 minutes of gardening to your daily or weekly routine to help shed some extra pounds. A half hour of raking burns 162 calories, weeding 182 and turning the compost pile a whopping 250 calories. Gardening several times a week will help keep you and your landscape looking its best. And anytime I can receive double or triple the benefit from my time and energy, the more likely I am to complete the task.
Don’t let physical challenges keep you from gardening. Maintain joint flexibility, range of motion and your quality of life by tending your landscape. Everyone, especially those suffering from arthritis, will appreciate these benefits. Just include a bit of planning, healthful gardening techniques and pace yourself so you can enjoy your home garden now and for years to come.
Plan your landscape for beauty and ease. Grow moisture-loving plants in beds near a source of water. Have a shed or storage bin stocked with your favorite tools conveniently located in your landscape. Add a mailbox or two in remote areas of your yard. Store a trowel, twine, pruners and other frequently needed small tools in the mailboxes for easy access to needed tools.
Or invest in a tool caddy, garden apron or cart that allows you to carry frequently used tools with you. Purchase or convert discards like an old golf bag on wheels or wheeled garbage can into long handled tool bags. I like the small garden stools that provide both seating and tool storage. They provide relief for the knees and reduce trips made retrieving forgotten hand tools.
Protect your joints and muscles while gardening. Warm up, just as you would for any workout, with a few simple stretches. Protect your knees by using a stool, kneeling pad or one legged kneel (other foot flat on the ground and back straight) instead of squatting.
And if kneeling is too painful raise your garden to a comfortable height. Containers, vertical walls and raised beds look good while allowing those with stiff joints, back problems and other physical limitations to keep gardening.
And no matter what shape you are in drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated during and after you finish gardening. Always wear sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Since I love the outdoors and skin cancer runs in my family, I visit my dermatologists each year. And if it’s getting hard to see the weeds, try a pair of Weeding Glasses. The tinted reading glasses protect your eyes while weeding or reading outdoors.
Pace yourself so you can enjoy the process and smell the roses, nicotiana, daphne and alyssum along the way. Gardeners have been into aromatherapy long before its recent rise in popularity. A few strategically placed fragrant flowers can create a delightful welcome home, soothing scent in your secret garden or aromatherapy as you weed and tend your landscape.
Include some edible flowers and fruit for you, the birds and the butterflies. I like to munch on serviceberries or fresh from the garden tomatoes as I work in my landscape. Nothing beats the flavor or the nutritional value of fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables. And watching the butterflies and hummingbirds sip on nectar from fuchsia, Verbena bonariensis or columbine, finches feed on coneflower seeds and squirrels acrobatic antics on the giant sunflowers provides added beauty and entertainment.
And don’t forget to invite the family to join in on the fun. Save a corner for your kids to raise their own Halloween pumpkins or the neighborhood’s biggest sunflower. Perhaps a worm bin will get the non-gardening fishermen and women into the act.
Or enjoy the peace and quiet that can be found when weeding, deadheading and watering your garden. In just a few minutes you will leave the stress of the day outside the garden and find yourself focused on the task at hand. And what can beat the delight of watching a tiny seed grow into a towering sunflower, seedling develop into a tree or bulbs breaking through the cold spring soil to bloom.
And if the task is too big or your time is limited – ask for help. Gardening can also be a great team sport. I have a couple wonderful friends that help me in my garden when life is too busy or my knees too sore. We make it a fun and productive workday. Our day begins with a visit over coffee and we end the day with a refreshment or two and time to admire our work. The rest of the day is filled with work, conversation and laughter. What was once an overwhelming task suddenly becomes a chance to spend time with friends, enjoy the garden and create new memories. Sharing your knowledge, plant divisions or other talents like cooking or sewing may be the perfect trade for your friends’ time and energy.
And as a wise person once said “Planting a garden is a way of showing you believe in tomorrow.”