Many people refocus on their health at the beginning of each new year and gardeners are probably no different. It may make you feel good to know that an activity you love, such as gardening, can help you along that path to a healthier life.
Gardening is ranked among the top leisure time activities in the country. Some consider it a form of moderate exercise because it can involve stretching and lifting, among other movements.
Like other exercise programs, it's not good to jump from being a couch potato to giving it your all in your garden. Start slow. If you have health concerns, speak with your doctor.
The gardener's workout clothes are a little different than those for the gym. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Wear safety glasses when trimming trees and shrubs. Protect your hands, as well as your feet with comfortable closed-toe shoes.
When working with thorny plants like roses, wear something thick and long-sleeved.Use bug repellent to protect yourself from biting insects.
Since gardening is also an exercise session, be sure that you begin by stretching to warm up and that you end by cooling down. Drink lots of water and take time out of the sun to relax your muscles.
When working on your knees, use a cushion.
Keep your back straight and don't sit on your heels. Stand up and stretch your legs every 10 minutes or so.
Use a lightweight long-handled shovel or spade and never overload it. Bend at the knee and step forward as you raise and dump each shovel full of soil. Bend at the knees and hips when picking up tools.
Vary your garden activities. Don't repeat the same action for hours — if you do, you'll feel it later. Break up the strenuous stuff with more enjoyable tasks.
Digging holes must be a strenuous calorie-burning exercise, as I'm often sore the next day. The shoveling strengthens muscles in the arms, legs, stomach, shoulders, neck and back. A compost pile can be another great calorie burner.
Gardening can give your entire body a workout, while increasing flexibility and strengthening joints.
Here is a list of a few garden activities and how many calories are burned for a 180-pound person, according to a Jan. 9 online article by Sue Hamilton at www.knoxnews.com. The article used figures by the National Gardening Association. If you weigh less, you will burn fewer calories.
Bagging leaves: 162
Gardening with heavy power tools: 243
Mowing with gas mower: 182
Mowing with push mower: 182
Planting seedlings: 162
Riding mower: 101
Sitting quietly and enjoying your labors: 40
Water (by hand): 61
So remember, you are not only beautifying your landscape, you are getting healthier. What better way to start a new year!