Time to get into shape for gardening

Within six to eight weeks most or all of the snow will be melted and it will be time to get out into the yard and garden. For those that have been physically active all winter, the transition will be seamless. Not so for the couch potatoes. The first few weeks of yard work is often associated with sore muscles and an occasional injury.

Within six to eight weeks most or all of the snow will be melted and it will be time to get out into the yard and garden.

For those that have been physically active all winter, the transition will be seamless. Not so for the couch potatoes. The first few weeks of yard work is often associated with sore muscles and an occasional injury.

Studies have shown that gardening is considered moderate to strenuous exercise depending on the task. Gardening works the major muscles groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. With most of the activities include starching or lifting.

Caution is always advised when starting any type of exercise program and gardening should be no different.

To avoid some of the pain associated with spring yard work, become more active now. Join an exercise class, a gym or find a routine that works for you.

There are a multitude of exercises that can be done to increase gardening fitness. The important thing is to start. Choose exercises or a program to fit your life style. People are more likely to continue with an exercise program if it is enjoyable. If commitment is a problem, partner up and encourage each other. As the weather improves take time to go for a walk three to five times a week. Increase the length and speed of the walk until it lasts for at least 30 minutes at a brisk pace.

Planting and weeding involves either squatting or being on hands and knees. Both positions stretch muscles. Take time to do squats now to diminish discomfort later in the season.

Start by placing feet hip width apart. Bend knees and lower into a squat position. The difference between the practical gardening squat and squats is the feet. They stay flat and the knees are behind the toes when exercising. The body is kept straight. Do not sit on the toes and bend forward as one does when gardening.

Start with a few squats and add more when it becomes comfortable.

There are various exercises that are preformed on the hands and knees. Most involve stretching different muscle groups.

According to fitness instructor Lynda Lippin the initial position is very important. Wrists should be directly below the shoulder and knees below the hips. The back should be straight from the neck to tailbone. Holding the abdominal muscles in will help keep the spine stable.

Once the initial position is correct take turns extending the arms forward and the legs backwards in straight lines. Always keep the back straight and body lined up with the floor and; do not twist.

Start with the amount of repetitions that are comfortable and add more as it becomes easier.

In gardening the arms and shoulders are used constantly from carrying heavy items to stretching and reaching for items beyond an easy grasp.

There are many exercises to strengthen the arms and shoulders. A simple one starts off by placing the feet below the hip and extend the arms out parallel to the floor. Leave one arm outwards and bend the elbow of the other bringing the hand under the armpit.

Now extend the bent arm and bend the other at the elbow. Repeat a number of times. Weights can be added to intensify the exercise.

These are just a few exercises that can help with the transition to gardening season. Take time to research other options being sure to contact a doctor if health is an issue.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com

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