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Tone Ups While You Garden

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 17 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Garden Gardening Exercise Fitness Keep

Believe it or not, there was a time when summer meant an hour or two with a manual lawn mower that could leave an individual sporting a healthy glow of perspiration and a thirst that could only be quenched with a cooling glass of home-made lemonade. Sadly, latter-day weather systems often preclude much in the way of lawn mowing from May to September given the regular rain showers that would leave the grass churned up rather than given a nice trim.

Not only does the bad weather mean the grass looks rather unruly but the gardener can’t benefit from the workout that pushing their mower offered: with a nice straight back, the shoulder muscles and upper arms would have appreciated the tone-up, along with the buttocks and thighs. But fear not, there are still a number of way in which those green fingers can be put to work in a way that offers the rest of the body real benefits.

Take, for example, half an hour weeding out the invaders in the borders, or between the flagstones on the pathway or patio. Yes, you can remove them from pathways by using commercially-available products, but why bother when you can burn away some of the calories accrued around last night’s dining table and tone up those shoulders?

A Nice Little Workout in Itself

Bear in mind, also, that most familiar of postures adopted by gardeners: crouching down with your bodyweight resting along a vertical line that runs down from the shoulders, through the hips and onto to the balls of the foot. Not only does bring into play the shoulder muscles, lower back, abdominals and thighs, but there is also the repetitive movements into and out of this position as a gardener moves along the border line, or sows seedlings. In short, a nice little workout in itself.

Posture plays a crucial role in this, ensuring that the load is shared by a variety of different muscle groups, and that the movement down from a standing start, and then back again is executed smoothly to avoid injuries such as that most common of gardener’s ailments, the bad back.

Keep your Movements Smooth

An essential part of any gardener’s armoury is a set of hedge trimmers, and no, not the electric ones. Take a manual set and give those privets a good trim: feel your heart rate rising and the work that your shoulders, upper arms and chest are getting. Without noticing, you will getting through many more repetitions than you would complete in the gym executing the chest fly. Remember to keep your movements smooth - this will be much easier if your trimmers are well oiled and maintained.

The upper body will also benefit, for example, from maintenance of hanging baskets that often calls for bearing and lifting weights from above shoulder height.

Always ensure that you stretch both before and after gardening sessions to ensure your body is prepared for the squats, lunges, lifts, pushes, pulls, and bending in a variety of positions that just one session is likely to entail. The results of all your good work – both in terms of your outside space and your personal fitness - will be apparent to everyone. In short, you’ll both look 'bloomin’ marvellous!

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