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Friday, June 7, 2013

Gardening: Not Your Grandma’s Workout

Gardening can kick your butt!
If you’re someone who is looking to maintain their fitness but doesn’t really want to spend yet another hour in the gym doing the same old routine you’ve been doing for months, the great news is, fitness can come in many different, often unexpected, packages. One particular activity that gets  overlooked (in terms of the fitness benefits it has to offer) is gardening.
Gardening actually not only burns a lot more calories than most people would guess, it is also a great way to
work multiple muscles in the body at the same time.

Let’s take a closer look at how this exercise might be one to consider adding to your routine every now and then.

The Strengthening Component

First, if you think gardening is a ‘seniors’ activity, you may want to think again. Depending on the nature of the work involved, you could be easily hauling around 50 pound bags of soil from your car to your yard or from the garage out to the back – wherever you happen to be working.

If it’s not soil you’re carrying, it will be something else. Terra cotta pots for example are not light by any means and if you’re carrying around gardening tools with all that stuff, it all adds up and will provide significant strength gains.

Multi-Muscle And Core Utilization

You’re also going to experience great core utilization while gardening. You’ll be twisting, turning, bending, pulling – all movements that require the abdominal muscles to contract each and every time.

Shoveling or digging for example, activate core muscles that challenge your balance while you're twisting and bending, so yes, a lot of core work will be called into play. Digging and shoveling also provide surprising strength training benefits for the entire upper and lower body.  Think of it as a full body exercise. If you’re bending over and picking up heavy objects such as that bag of soil mentioned earlier, this will be no different than performing a deadlifting movement; only gripping the bag will present a challenge as well. Bottom line: expect to feel those hamstrings and lower back the next day.

Pushing your lawn mower around the yard? You’ll be working the chest, shoulders, and triceps as well as the quads and glutes to "drive" the movement pattern.  Your core muscles will be activated here again to maintain control as you move through this pushing movement pattern.

Before you know it, you will have a full body strength training workout complete, only one that is far more functional than most workouts you would have done at the gym.

Cardio Benefits

As long as you are moving with some intensity, expect to get that heart pumping as well. Larger muscle groups working simultaneously will really elevate your heart rate. Because gardening does tend to have you stopping and starting, it almost mimics a cardio interval.  And of course, you already know that interval training is a superior form of cardio-vascular training.

In an hour of gardening, you can easily burn anywhere between 400-600 calories depending on what you are doing-and how hard you're doing it. The more full-body type movements you’re making, the more calories you will be burning.

There is also a steady-state cardio element such as, mowing the lawn. Pushing a lawn mower around for a good 15-20 minutes will definitely burn up a couple hundred calories while keeping your heart rate elevated the entire time.

If you’re gardening in the hot weather, this too will increase your heart rate, much the way Bikram yoga does.
Mood Enhancing Effects

Finally, don't overlook the mood enhancing benefits that gardening can bring. Even though you're moving and exerting, gardening offers great therapeutic relaxation. Most people who spend a few hours in their yard find it extremely calming.  It's allows a chance to de-stress and re-focus.  Activities like pulling weeds or planting flowers don’t take much mental stimulation and focus, so it's easy to zone out and reach that flow state.

With stress reduction comes a number of positive health benefits including faster fat loss and better mood. By lowering cortisol, you'll decrease fat storage as well as the breakdown of lean muscle tissue.  This makes gardening a one-stop activity that benefits your health in multiple ways.

Finally, let’s not forget how great you’ll feel after the hard work is done as you lay down on your chaise at the end of the afternoon, with a nice glass of wine; sun setting, birds chirping, what's left of the warm sun brushing against your skin...enjoy your beautiful yard!  

Most people take great pride in a beautiful yard full of flowers and impressive greenery so it’s one fitness workout that you’ll reap benefits from each time you look outside your house windows. 

So next time you’re feeling like you’re dreading yet another mundane gym workout and just can’t muster up the determination to get yourself to the gym, consider getting yourself outside instead. Even if you haven’t gardened before, it’s easy to learn and it IS addicting. While it can get a little expensive, there could worse things to get hooked on. Oh, and by the way, if you live a condo or an apartment, gardening is just as fun, it’s just done in “pots.” 

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Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

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