Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
October, 2005
Regional Report

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Forget the weights. Use these tools for a healthy body!

Here's To Your Health!

I know being in my garden keeps me healthy. I know this, not from statistics or measurements, but simply from how I feel. When pressures get a little too intense, my natural inclination is to go out to the garden. When I have something to think through, I go out to my garden. When I have something to grieve, I find solace in the garden. And my body feels refreshed -- even when physically spent -- after several hours in the garden.

I've felt these mental and physical health rewards for many years, and scientific research backs up my experience. We've all heard that we should get at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise every day to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help prevent diabetes and heart disease, and prevent or slow osteoporosis. The great news is that gardening does this for us. Half an hour of stooping and bending, hoeing and raking, lifting and carting is just the ticket for helping maintain our health. In fact, there is also scientific evidence that by stepping up our gardening activities we can actually burn enough calories to lose weight.

Feel the Burn
By turning off our leaf blower and grabbing the rake, by pushing a reel mower instead of a self-propelled mower, or by digging and planting our own trees, we can burn up to about 300 calories per hour. Think of working in the yard just like other forms of exercise, and stretch and warm up before starting. This will go a long way toward keeping you from getting sore.

The best way to achieve the "burn" is to try to garden in 40- to 60-minute sessions three or four times a week. It may be harder to schedule this way, but the marathon sessions on the weekends where everything has to get done are harder on the body. Many of us are all too familiar with feeling as if we've been run over by a truck come Monday morning.

Last winter and spring I was able to keep a promise to myself to spend a half hour a day doing something -- anything -- in the garden or yard. Not only did I feel like I was getting exercise, but it got me outdoors in the sunshine for a little while each day. And I accomplished an amazing number of little chores that might have gone by the wayside.

I'm as likely as the rest of us to pull in the welcome mat and burrow in for the winter, but this promise to myself had untold psychological and physical benefits. I honestly felt that my stress lessened, my mood brightened, and my body strengthened. Bending, lifting, pruning, and raking kept me more supple, and I like to think that lifting the wheelbarrow and hauling ladders helped strengthen my bones.

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