Those of you with a green thumb know that doing yard work can be a killer workout depending on what activities you’re doing. The National Institutes of Health lists gardening 30 to 45 minutes a day three to five times a week as moderate activity that can reduce obesity (as compared to biking five miles or walking two miles in 30 minutes). It can even burn up to 330 calories per hour.
While it’s rewarding to see what you’ve created—whether it be an herb garden, a rock wall, or even a new fence or deck—doing physical labor outdoors can really take its toll on your body. Here are some tips on how to stay injury-free when doing exercise moves that will have you working up a sweat in your yard:
Lift with your legs, not your back.
To ensure that you’re working your body safely and effectively when lifting rocks, wood, heavy plants, or bags of dirt, lift with your legs, not with your back. Bend your knees and squat like you’re sitting into an imaginary chair. Hold the item close to you and stand, keeping the shoulders back and chin up the whole time. This not only protects your back, but it also means that you squat more. And squatting is one of the best ways to get a great backside because it works your glutes and quads!
Work both sides of your body evenly.
If you’re “turning over” a garden with a pitchfork, use your legs and right arm to power the push into the dirt, then stomp the fork in deeper with your right leg and foot. Next, use your legs to squat (instead of making your arms and back do all of the work) and initiate the press down of the handle to lift the dirt. Next, use your right arm and biceps to force the dirt off the ground to flip it and mix it up. Do this 4 times on the right side and then be sure to switch to your left. This will work the muscles evenly, protect your back, and make sure that you’re not just relying on your dominant side.
Dress for protection.
First of all, wear gardening gloves. Calluses, blisters, cuts, and splinters can put a painful stop to your outdoor projects, as well as hurt your gym and fitness DVD routines. If you can’t use your hands to lift weights and do push-ups for the rest of the week, you’ll be packing on the pounds before you know it. Protect your future workouts by protecting your hands. Keep in mind that you’ll also be shedding clothes as your body heats up so prepare for it in advance by wearing sunscreen. And arm yourself with a big bottle of water so you stay hydrated.
Do it the old-fashioned way!
Sure, that pitch-fork routine I mentioned earlier can be done quicker and with less effort if you have a rototiller, but if you do it yourself with a pitchfork and muscle, you’ll save your ears from the blasting volume of the machines, save money from having to buy them, and save the environment by not using fuel.
‘Rock’ your workout.
As you decorate your deck, porch, and/or landscaping with heavy materials like rocks, bricks, wood, etc., you’ll have to lift, move, and reach which will build arm and leg muscles. It’ll also boost your metabolism and calorie burn. As you carry rocks or boards from one part of your property to the other, you can do biceps curls by lifting the weight from low to high and bending the elbows. You can also grab the rocks or boards and push them from your shoulders to overhead and work those delts.
Hold on tight to those rocks, bricks, and boards so you don’t drop them on your toes!
Here are some additional gardening projects that will make you doubly proud of yourself; you didn’t skip your workout and you have something to show for it:
- Carry around bags of potting soil then plant flowers in pots that you have to lift and move around the yard.
- Create a round rock “well” to plant sunflowers in or circle trees with bricks.
- Put a fence around the vegetable garden and plant healthy food to eat—or build a tree house for your kids so you have to lift overhead to work your shoulders.
There are countless ways to fit in a workout routine while gardening in your yard, but just like any other workout, you need to ensure that your muscles and joints are warmed up and ready to feel the burn. Stretch properly before reaching for your gardening tools and remember to respect your body while you’re digging and lifting.
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