Lift, dig, trim! Gardeners can reap fitness along with plants


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Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013, 4:40 pm
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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.

Work ergonomically. Stress good posture and balance.

"As someone who has had a back issue, I do try to follow my physical therapist's advice and be careful to kneel instead of stooping while gardening and to lift with bent knees and a straight back," Hagen said. "One of the things I like most about gardening is that because you stretch and move in so many directions, it works all your muscle groups, releasing tension everywhere in your body."

Don't forget to include mental health in your landscape design. Add tranquil herb gardens, soothing fountains and small sitting areas for meditation, relaxing and cooling off.

"Any gardener can tell you that there is nothing like spending time outdoors gardening to refresh the soul," Hagen said. "Psychologically, I'm sure it provides the same benefits to gardeners that recent research says recess provides to schoolchildren."

Good nutrition also is an important part of any fitness package, and few things taste better than food served fresh from the garden.

"If you can boost your health and avoid stresses and strains in the process, it becomes all the more satisfying," Guinness said.















 




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  Today is Monday, Sept. 1, the 244th day of 2014. There are 121 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We are informed by J.H. Hull that the reason the street sprinkler was not at work yesterday settling the dust on the streets, was because one of his horses was injured.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Bonnie McGregor, a fleet-footed stallion owned by S.W. Wheelock of this community, covered himself with glory at Lexington, Ky, when he ran a mile in 2:13 1/2. The horse's value was estimated as at least $50,000.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Troops are pouring into Paris to prepare for defense of the city. The German army is reported to be only 60 miles from the capital of France.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The German army has invaded Poland in undeclared warfare. Poland has appealed to Great Britain and France for aid.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Publication of a plant newspaper, the Farmall Works News, has been launched at the Rock Island IHC factory and replaces a managerial newsletter.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Officials predict Monday's Rock Island Labor Parade will be the biggest and best ever. Last minute work continues on floats and costumes for the parade, which steps off a 9:30 a.m.




(More History)