The Gym Outside Your Door
After a long winter of exercising inside, it’s refreshing to move fitness pursuits outside. A great way to enjoy improved strength, flexibility, and endurance is to use the gym available in your own back yard. Digging in the dirt, planting, and weeding, can get both you and your yard in shape. If you don’t have a back yard, community gardens provide a great way to get the same results with the added benefits of camaraderie and fresh vegetables.
The clock-watching that routinely occurs while working out inside the gym dissolves in the garden. The repetitive motions and present-moment awareness can transport the gardener past physical efforts.
The bending and reaching involved in yard work is a good way to increase flexibility. To protect the back, bend at the knees instead of the waist. Draw abdominal muscles inward when bending over or standing up again. The support provided by the core muscles will keep your back happy.
Raking and digging can work up a sweat. Benefits include strengthening of the heart and lungs and toned muscles. The upper body work that occurs with these movements can do wonders for the upper arms and shoulders.
It’s a good idea to ease into gardening early in the season. Start with 20 to 30 minutes and increase the time as the body adapts to the new movement. Avoid injuries by alternating tasks. Switch between raking, weeding, and digging to reduce aches and pains that usually accompany new activities.
In addition to the physical fitness benefits of gardening, there is an added bonus. Stress can melt away as the magic of the garden takes over. And there’s also the feeling of accomplishment that comes when you stand back and enjoy the beauty or bounty you have created.
- Pam Brooks