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It’s almost spring! Hooray! Capt’n Clean and I got so excited that we wet our plants! Okay, actually he’s the plant wetter in our family…I just enjoy the greenery.

But I’ve been thinking that this year maybe I should do a little gardening. Did you know that the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) claims that gardening qualifies as exercise? In fact, getting out in the yard for just 30-45 minutes can burn up to 300 calories.

The more challenging garden activities like raking, weeding and trimming can burn even more calories since they engage a variety of muscle groups. If you’ve ever spent the day raking leaves, you appreciate the “sore” you feel the next morning. But it’s a good “sore” right?

With my background in the fitness industry, and being an exercise and step-counting fanatic, I want to be able to make sure my gardening activities will count as a bona fide workout. Here’s a few ideas to make it so:

Treat it like a workout.
Stretch before you begin. Start with light activities and work your way up to heavier ones. Digging is probably going to be the most physically taxing activity you’ll do, so work your way up to it. Then cool down with activities like pruning (or picking) flowers. Don’t forget to stretch at the end too. Chances are you will use muscles that have been hibernating throughout the winter, so stretching will ease the aches you will feel the next day.

Remember, like running a race, gardening requires strength, flexibility and endurance. It’s best to work into it gradually.

Dig it baby!
As I mentioned, digging is probably one of the most intensive things you’ll do as a gardener. Pushing down on a shovel with your foot, and then lifting and turning soil does a lot more for your body than just get it dirty. Take every opportunity you can to dig. You dig?

Lifting your spirits.
When you are carrying heavy bags of mulch or pushing a mower over rough terrain, it’s very demanding for a rookie gardener. Resistance exercise is great for toning muscles and fortifying bone mass, but vary the heavy stuff when you first start out.

Become ambidextrous. 
If you are raking, spreading or trimming, it’s a good idea to switch hands periodically. You don’t want to be lopsided!

Keep good form.
This one is the hardest one for me. Years ago, when Capt’n Clean and I were doing yard projects, like digging a pond, he was constantly reminding me to bend at the knees instead of at the waist when lifting a heavy item. Duh!

Also, it’s a good idea to make sure your raking, digging and sweeping tools are long enough, so that you don’t have to stoop over to use them. Your back will thank you.

Go commando.
No, I don’t mean to do your gardening in the nude. I’m talking about using old-timey shears, mowers and edgers rather than new fangled ones that plug into an outlet. These antique relics require that you use your core, legs and upper strength to manipulate, and are beneficial to building endurance. I’m not so sure that sitting on a riding mower and steering really counts as exercise.

Face it, your body needs movement and gardening is a great way to keep moving and feel better.

Plus, you are communing with nature, improving your mental health, creating a beautiful yard and even producing healthy food. It’s a win-win-win-win no brainer!

So go get your sweat fix by playing in the dirt, Wimpy Girl! Enjoy your Spring!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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