Prepare Your Body for the Gardening Season Ahead

Gardeners know that gardening chores are great exercise. Regular garden chores can burn anywhere from 120 to 200 calories per half hour depending on the intensity of the activity. (See the table below for the amount of calories burned per gardening activity.) However, gardening chores are seasonal and can lead to injury if your body is not properly prepared for outdoor activities.

It is important to start stretching for several weeks prior to beginning outdoor spring chores. Regular stretching of legs, arms, back, and even hands and feet are essential to preventing aches and pains later. Crunches, leg and arm lifts, squats, and even push ups can help prepare those dormant muscles for spring and summer chores.

A great book on preparing for gardening exercise is Gardener's Fitness: Weeding Out the Aches and Pains by Barbara Pearlman (1999). Ms. Pearlman mentions everything from stretching in preparation for gardening chores to cooling down afterward. One nice aspect of this book is the constant references to gardening in the chapter and section titles like "Don't let your body go to seed" and "Cultivate the right moves".

So, start now with a few exercises and stretches to prepare your body for the upcoming gardening season. While shoveling snow over the past weekend, many of us were reminded of the wisdom of warming and stretching exercises prior to strenuous activities.

Calories burned in a thirty-minute period per activity:

Activity Women Men
Digging and Spading 150 197
Mowing with power mower 135 177
Planting 135 177
Weeding 138 181
Raking 120 157

This article originally appeared in the March 8, 2002 issue, p. 25.


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