Ways to be active in the garden
Gardening delivers a much longer list of perks than you might think. Spend a bit of time in yours and not only will you get to enjoy a luscious lawn, trimmed hedges and a productive vegie patch, your mental and physical health will flourish, too.
In fact, research proves that keen gardeners find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. That’s not surprising when you consider that a good gardening session can be compared to a gym workout – turning compost is like lifting weights, and raking requires similar movements to using a rowing machine.
5 Reasons to get gardening
1. It’s a full-body workout
Tasks like raking, digging and pushing a lawn mower work a range of muscle groups in functional ways. In other words you develop muscles that you use in your daily life. Use every opportunity to add more movement to your gardening.
2. It gets your heart rate up
Gardening can be a great cardio exercise. Research published by the American Society for Horticultural Science found that the majority of gardening tasks are classified as moderate- to high-intensity physical activities. Doing a few cardio sessions a week can reduce your risk of a range of diseases and help your health goals.
3. It’s a chance to ‘go green’ and get vitamin D
Scientists have suggested that doing something physically active outdoors surrounded by greenery, for just a few minutes a day boosts mood and self-esteem. Plus, spending some time outside is a chance to top up your vitamin D levels. Just remember to use sun protection whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, like in summer and spring.
4. You can grow your own food
Plant a herb or vegetable patch and you’ll always have a good supply of fresh produce to load your plate with and it's just outside your front door. That’s a great way to help your health and your wallet! Don’t forget that most vegies are zero Points ® foods and you can use herbs to flavour your food without adding any extra SmartPoints to the meal.
5. It’s a healing hobby
Gardening can be a great way to unwind, and research proves that it relieves stress. A study carried out in the Netherlands found that people who spent 30 minutes gardening after being exposed to a stressful situation experienced a much larger reduction in cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone, than people who chose to read a book instead.
Tips for getting the most out of your gardening workout
• Make sure you’re sun safe and wear appropriate footwear and clothing to avoid any injuries. And stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
• Try to warm up before you start, by walking for 5 minutes or doing some lighter activities first. And do some stretches when you’ve finished.
• Posture and technique can be important. Keep your back straight, core engaged and lift with your legs not with your back. Incorporating a few squats will not only help strengthen your glutes, it’ll also protect your back from injury.
• Try to find more opportunity to exercise, with every activity you do. For example when you’re watering the garden, swap a hose for a watering can. Carrying the can will add resistance, and walking back and forth to fill it up will add more steps. Want to amp it up? Try lunging instead of walking, on your way to and from the tap.
• Alternate tasks between heavier and lighter ones. For example, after you’ve finished digging, raking or ploughing, switch to some gentle pruning. That way you’ll give yourself some time to recover before moving onto the next physically demanding task.