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Two birds with one stone: get fit with a garden workout

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Gardening can be pretty hard work. So why not officially make it a garden workout? Thinking of gardening as a sport can help you appreciate the wonders it does for your fitness levels, as well as reminding you to follow the ground rules of injury-free exercising.

Warm up and stay loose

As with any kind of exercise, always start your garden workout by warming up with 5-10 minutes of stretching exercises. Once you get going in the garden, try to keep working at a steady pace to keep your heart rate up.

Every 20 minutes or so, stop what you’re doing and do another round of stretches. This will keep you feeling flexible and help guard against back pain. If you’re the sort of person who gets so absorbed in what they’re doing that they forget about everything else, set an alarm to remind you when to stretch. Interspersing your garden workout with stretch breaks also provides you with a good opportunity to assess how your muscles are feeling and whether it’s time to move onto a different activity for a while. 

 

Keep your garden workout varied

No fitness instructor would ask you to do the same exercise for an hour at a time because it’s better for your body if you alternate between positions. That way, all of your muscles get exercised, but none gets put under too much strain at once. The same principle applies to your garden workout: keep your activities varied by changing tasks regularly, ideally alternating between standing activities like hedge trimming and squatting activities like weeding. If you are doing something that only requires the use of one hand, try to change hands every few minutes, so both sides of your body benefit equally.

Bend your knees


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Whether you’re lifting upwards or doing work at ground level, remember to always bend at the knees, rather than at the waist. Most people know about this rule in theory, but it’s easy to forget about it when you’re keen to get a task done. Be strict with yourself, and keep reminding yourself about this rule until it becomes automatic. There’s no point in giving your body the benefit of a garden workout, only to find that you can hardly move the next day due to unnecessary back pain. Also, try to use tools with long handles when doing jobs like hoeing or raking that involve repetitive movements over a longer period of time. Your back will thank you for it.

Weight training

 

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Weight lifting is also part of any garden workout. You’ve probably already noticed which garden tasks make the greatest demands on your upper arms. Carrying around bags of compost, gardening equipment or hedge clippings all adds up, even if the individual loads don’t feel that heavy. Also, think of the work your muscles are doing when you are carrying out tasks like hedge trimming, which involve holding a piece of equipment up for an extended period of time. And although raking and pruning don’t involve any heavy lifting, they are also parts of a garden workout which can tone your upper arms and build up strength. So if you are particularly interested in working on this part of the body, you can maximise the effects of these tasks by using slightly exaggerated movements and paying attention to how your muscles are being put to use.

Have fun cooling down

 

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Never go straight from strenuous activity to a standstill. It may be tempting to just flop down onto the sofa after a particularly exhausting task, but doing so could leave you with muscle cramp. Not only can this be painful and limit your flexibility the next day, it may also spoil your garden workout experience and make you less likely to repeat it again soon. Take the time to do some gentle stretches and walk around the garden, admiring your work. Or have some fun with any friends or family that are around by getting out a ball game or some badminton rackets for some gentle warm-down exercise.

And relax


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When you’ve finished your garden workout, treat yourself to some relaxation time with a jug of iced tea with fresh fruit. Sit back, take in the fresh air and admire your good work. At the same time, enjoy the feeling of exhilaration that comes from really getting your circulation going and tiring yourself out.

Fresh air, exercise and beautiful surroundings, as well as a great looking garden at the end of it all. Who would have thought that working out could be this much fun?