How to Be a Fit Gardener

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By: , – Megan Tomlin, Family Circle
6/28/2011 6:00 AM   :  9 comments   :  5,902 Views

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Good news, gardeners! Gardening is an extremely easy and fun way to burn off all those unwanted calories. By weeding and digging in the dirt, a 140-lb. person will burn 300 calories per hour, but you need to make sure you take the measures needed to prevent soreness and injury. David H. Baras, M.D., of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of South Florida School of Medicine, gives advice on how to prevent and alleviate soreness so you can be a fit gardener.

Understand Your Body's Needs
Gardening is a favorite physical activity for many, but there are some precautions you must take. Because you may not feel like you’re exerting yourself, you may not drink enough fluids and get dehydrated quickly. Dr. Baras recommends that you drink water or some type of unsweetened fruit juice. “Have 8 ounces every 30-45 minutes to prevent dehydration, which sneaks up on you,” says Dr. Baras. And skip the coffee -- the caffeine will further dehydrate you.

It’s also important to know your own limits. Before starting any activity, you should be aware of your body’s restrictions. Although soreness may not begin until after you’ve completed your activity, Dr. Baras says you can judge your limitations by looking to activities you’ve recently completed. “Think of any particular activity you’ve done prior to gardening that required a lot of body movement,” he said.

Examples would be vacuuming, window cleaning and walking. “I’ve had patients tell me that they feel sore the next day. If you felt sore from one activity, you can learn to set limits for the next one,” adds Dr. Baras.

Prevent Soreness
No matter what type of physical condition you’re in, there is always a risk of soreness if you continue any activity for a long period of time. Dr. Baras recommends that if you’re new to gardening, then you should limit your time spent digging in the dirt.

He suggests using what he calls a “posture clock” -- where you change your position every 30-45 minutes. This “clock” will help you realize when it is time to move so that you don’t remain in one position for too long. Staying in one position for a long period of time will cause muscle fatigue, resulting in pain, says Dr. Baras.

Your posture is extremely important in reducing lower back pain. Dr. Baras recommends using a bench or even a chair. Some gardening stores sell benches specifically for this purpose, allowing you to comfortably sit instead of kneel.
He also advises that you take into account your current level of fitness and any medical problems that may limit your physical endurance. If you haven’t gardened in a while, then you need to give yourself more time to complete the task by doing it in intervals. But even experienced gardeners need posture clocks since they don’t think about their positions constantly and are used to the activity, Dr. Baras added.

He also advises that you take into account your current level of fitness and any medical problems that may limit your physical endurance. If you haven’t gardened in a while, then you need to give yourself more time to complete the task by doing it in intervals. But even experienced gardeners need posture clocks since they don’t think about their positions constantly and are used to the activity, Dr. Baras added.

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Comments

  • 9
    Hey, someone should post a set of pre- and after-gardening stretches! "The Gardener's Warm-Up" or something like that. :) - 5/24/2013   6:58:14 PM
  • 8
    I sit to weed and still my back and hips hurt after just a few minutes. I still do it but just put up with the pain. I have fibro so that probably has a lot to do with it. I should "warm up" before and stretch afterwards maybe. Great ideas here. Thanks! - 7/4/2011   9:40:52 AM
  • 7
    I always get sore after gardening. It seems I must not bend as much in daily activities. I don't know what exercises I could do but my glutes are what get sore! - 7/3/2011   7:43:59 PM
  • 6
    A tip I read elsewhere and use for myself when working outside is to use a kitchen timer. I garden (pull weeds, hoe, etc) for fifteen minutes and then take a break to drink a glass of water. I find I am much more productive using this method. - 6/29/2011   8:44:38 AM
  • 5
    I remember carrying hay bales for my father when he planted potatoes and we covered them with straw. Lots of work. - 6/29/2011   1:49:15 AM
  • 4
    I love gardening & it is a great way to workout, after I am done I stretch out with some yoga. - 6/28/2011   11:34:32 AM
  • BJCRUTCH
    3
    Gardening really is great exercise! One day I wore my calorie counter and burned approximately 2400 calories in 2 hours. (I weigh around 200). - 6/28/2011   10:06:22 AM
  • GMAGEE
    2
    Good blog. It's very easy to get engrossed in any task - and gardening is a prime example - which require repetitive motions. I like the idea of a posture clock and will keep this in mind for many similar activities. - 6/28/2011   9:28:18 AM
  • 1
    Stretches after gardening help prevent soreness. - 6/28/2011   9:27:25 AM

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