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Grow at home: How to make your gardening into more of a workout

Written by Sarah Talbot

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Posted on 29 March 2020

the workout has been thrown into disarray by gyms closing and people being forced to stay home. All is well in the garden though. Whether it is the supermarkets queues or skies clearing to a cerulean blue, people seem to be relishing the idea of spending time in the garden. The National Gardens Scheme in 2016 report found that half of the adult population in England report being involved in gardening, and consider it an important activity throughout their lives. And the enforced leisure time we are all having at the moment only widens the garden's appeal as a place of sanctuary. But how can we make even better use of it? Maybe by turning it into our own gym...

Gardening as Exercise

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Gardening is deemed to be a "moderate to strenuous workout" up there with walking and cycling. So excellent news for those of you who already garden. Also brilliant news for any gym-bunnies that are suffering because they are shut. You can easily burn the same number of calories gardening as you would at the gym. Digging, raking, and mowing are at the best activities (my Activity Tracker is convinced that my mower is a static bike!). The secret is that gardening covers all 4 sorts of exercise: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility meaning its an all round work out

 

Losing Weight

Gardening can help you lose weight burning off about 300 calories an hour. One study found that women community gardeners weighed on average 11 pounds less than non-gardeners, and men weighed 16 pounds less. While you will certainly burn calories doing it there are other factors at play.

Fresh air

All the stress relieving and mental health benefits of a walk in the countryside with an added sense of achievement at having grown something successfully. Fresh air can make us feel healthier resulting in healthier eating habits supported by the fresh veggies produced. Who wants oven chips when you could have glistening new potatoes freshly pulled from your own plot? Being outside will also increase your vitamin D intake. Not only is this vitamin important to every single organ in your body but it is also a mood booster. Which may go some way to explain why gardening is good for our mental health.

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Away from the biscuit tin

So much over eating is in response to boredom rather than hunger. Even if you haven't stockpiled biscuits they are probably now within reach where they wouldn't have been before. Being out in the garden takes you away from temptation and gives you something else to do with idle hands. 

 

A better larder

Growing your own vegetables, fruits, or herbs, gives them more focus in your kitchen. So instead of I've got some meat what veg shall I have with it. Its 'the beans will be ready early next week what recipes can i use for them.

Making your Gardening into a Workout

The first thing to say on this subject is gardening can cause injury. Doing it the wrong way, or over doing it when you haven't gardened for a while (or ever!) can lead to very sore muscles and a bad back which no one wants. We've all been there and overdone it at the start of the season but it should be avoided if possible. There are subtle ways to make your gardening more effective fitness wise though.

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Warm Up

You wouldn't do a 5K run without warming up your muscles so some gentle stretching is the very least you need to do - particularly before the more strenuous tasks like digging.

Stretch for it!

When you are undertaking activities like hoeing you want to increase the sweep or arc from your starting position to your ending position. So rather than short jerky movements you need long fluid movements with a slight stretch so you can feel it in your muscles. Think Tai Chi with a trowel.

Lunge and weed

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This one transfers straight from the weights section of the gym. Think a forward lunge usually done with a dumbbell in each hand. To transfer this to the garden, take your weeding tool - a long handed one like the SpeedHoe Precision - and rest your left arm on your left knee when weeding with your right hand. Reverse if you are left handed. You may feel a bit of a twit at first and get some funny looks if you do this at the allotment (at a 2m distance from anyone else) but much better than being in a sweaty gym.

Use the right muscles

If you use the right muscles then it not only be kinder to your back but will also burn more calories. The muscles of the arms and lower back are weaker. So, try to use the larger muscles in your legs, buttocks and the core strength of your torso to do the bulk of the work. Particularly important when lifting things like compost bags. Bend those knees.

Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Try and group your activity into sets. So dig 5 spade fulls then rest for one minute then repeat. Hoe 10 sweeps and then move weed so the compost heap for one minute, repeat This will not only improve your fitness but it will chop up tedious tasks into more manageable chunks. Plus it will give you short term goals to think about rather than being daunted by having to dig a whole bed.

Gardening together

From delaying dementia to improving concentration in all areas of your life, gardening has much to offer out mental well-being. 

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If you can garden as a family then it can create a shared interest and bonding experience like no other. But there is room for differences too - one person may enjoy flowers, one may be obsessed with getting the lawn like a bowling green, and another may be interested in the wildlife that can be attracted to the garden. They can all be in the same place with their separate goals and enjoy it together. Even if you are in self isolation the internet is awash with groups where you can share your achievements. Just type #allotment or #gardening into Instagram and you will come up with a whole tribe of people who will ooh and ahh as your first seed pokes its head out of the soil. Its a way to stay connected and share the experience. They will also offer you advice to get you started too - though don't expect them to always agree with each other!

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The final advantage at the moment is that the garden also gives you another room. The house can become very small when the whole family is home the whole time! So move the home schooling outside. Read, paint and interact with nature and have a lunch time BBQ to make it feel like a holiday. What is nicer than eating in the open, listening to the birds as you sip a glass of something chilled? Treat yourself to 30 minutes workout in the garden a day if you can manage it. And you can forget about the gym membership... Don't forget Haxnicks has a great YouTube channel too. So if you are stuck in doors take the time to watch a few videos. Be fully prepared for when you find yourself back on the plot. Check it out here

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