Fit in the Garden
(As seen in Leland Magazine)
Spring has sprung and the yard and garden will be in need of tending to. Are you ready to reap the many health and fitness benefits of gardening without feeling the burden and strains of the work?
Numerous studies have shown that getting out in nature has tremendous health benefits, both mentally and physically. Many times it is simply being surrounded by the many living things in the great outdoors, the vitamin D from the sunshine, the open spaces to move your body more, and the general connection with nature itself. Now let’s discuss some of the things that you can do to get the most from your gardening time.
Before heading outside, it is a good idea to do a little prep work. Protect your skin by covering up and applying sunscreen. Skin cancer is real, no need to help it along. Fill up a large bottle of water to keep with you. If you prefer it cold, be sure to use an insulated container. Warm-up and loosen up the muscles the same way you would prepare for a workout. You don’t want to go lifting, pulling, twisting, and pushing out in the yard with stiff muscles. Some key areas to focus on loosening would be the hips and low back, front and inner thighs, calves, shoulders, and wrists. This shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes, but your body will be thanking you tomorrow.
Balance of Activity
Limit the repetitive stress of doing the same thing for the entire time you are out there working. If you have a larger task to complete, break it up over multiple days. This will prevent the 2-3 hour marathon of pulling weeds. At the very least, try to switch sides frequently. For example, if you are raking or weeding try doing 10 pulls with one side of your body and then 10 pulls with the opposite side. This will not only lighten the workload for the one side, but it will help keep your body in balance and incorporate some fantastic mental stimulus as well.
Save Your Back
I have seen many people out working in their yard doing the straight leg, bend over from the low back and work position. This puts a massive strain on the point of fold; the low back. Remember it is best to limit the direct torque on the low back by removing the loaded strain from that area. A simple solution is to bring a small gardening stool to sit on, or even a thick pad to kneel on. This will shorten the distance to the work area and allow you to decrease the load on the back. A huge back saver! Also try to limit twisting from the low back. This is common when shoveling. Rather than scoop, twist, dump…try scoop with your legs, keep the load in front of you, move your feet to the unload location, then dump.
Hydration and Breaks
When you are outside in the sun and doing work, it is important to stay hydrated. This is where that big bottle of water you filled before going outside comes in handy. Try to take 1-2 large mouthfuls every 15-20 minutes. Of course the amount of water and frequency can also increase depending on the level of heat and work effort. Remember, it almost always better to be slightly over hydrated than under hydrated. Also be sure to change positions frequently. Take a walk around the yard, do some gentle stretches, take a step back into the shade and admire your work.
No one likes to work on a yard or garden that simply keeps dying on them. It can be a very frustrating task to continue to put in all the work and see nothing come from it. Do yourself a favor and check with local gardening sources to help you choose the right things for your climate, soil, and amount of sunlight. Reap the benefits of your hard work; experience the uplifting feeling of a well maintained yard and flourishing garden.
If gardening is your thing, I hope you will utilize the above tips to even further improve your experience. If not, many of the tips above will still carry over to your outdoor activity of choice. Either way, I hope you will get out and enjoy all the wonderful benefits being outdoors can offer.
As always, if you have additional questions regarding this month's article or have a topic you would like to see covered in future articles; please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email.