British horticulturist and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll once said, “A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness. It teaches industry and thrift. Above all, it teaches entire trust.”
Tending a garden can be satisfying in many ways — whether it be the aesthetic sights and scents of flowers or the delicious taste of fresh fruits and vegetables.
There is, however, another benefit: Gardening is a good workout.
“It’s not just exercise for exercise itself, which can become tedious,” says Katherine Brown, the executive director of the Southside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that supports community gardens and other urban agriculture in and around Providence, R.I. “It’s exercise that has a context, that reinforces the limberness of your limbs and the use of your hands. You’ve got a motivation for why you want to grip. You’re not just gripping a ball. You want to pull a weed.”
But as with any kind of exercise, form is important. So I’ve devised a routine to help you make the most out of your garden workout.
Stretch out the forearms, wrists and fingers for about 5 minutes.
Make sure you have water handy for hydration.
While it’s true that vitamin D reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers, be sure to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen. I’d recommend Sun Love, a natural sun protection by Annmarie Gianni. The antioxidant herbs and oils of the product help neutralize the effects of damaging UV rays.
Don’t let more than 10 minutes pass without standing up from the crouching position of many gardeners.
Get in a staggered stance with one foot slightly in front of the other, take both arms and reach up overhead. Repeat 5 times then do the same, switching the forward leg. This will help combat many of those hunched-over positions familiar to gardeners.
In addition, be mindful of switching hands and positions frequently. Try not to overexert one particular side and instead use the side that does not get as much attention and may be weaker from lack of use.
Stand with your feet spread a little more than shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Reach up with both arms, palms outward, and slowly move your hands toward the ground — arms straight. Repeat at least 5 times.
Just as you did when you began gardening, stretch out your forearms, wrists, and fingers.
Notice if you feel any physical changes and/or fatigue. It may help you focus on those areas during your next gardening session.
As with diet and exercise, there is no quick fix in gardening. Patience is required, along with the knowledge that you reap what you sow.
If you are consistent and diligent with both diet and exercise, you will eventually see results. And in these, the garden can help.
Reach Giovanni on twitter @GiovanniRoselli and his website, GiovanniRoselli.com.