Getting in Shape for Gardening

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
getting in shape for gardening

Winter is a great season to stay in shape so you’ll be prepared for the upcoming gardening season. If you’re like me, soon you’ll be stretching, squatting, bending, reaching and twisting for hours. Somehow when I’m in the garden, I lose track of time.

Taking the time now to prepare for the vigorous gardening months ahead will prevent unnecessary aches and pains. Not to mention, you’ll feel better during the sometimes dreary winter, too. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that being in shape before you start gardening again in spring is definitely the preferred way to go.

For gardening fitness, try to combine a bit of aerobics, strength building and stretching into your workout. But before you do anything, please check with your physician to make sure you are physically able to handle these exercises.

Overall Fitness: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, or 30 minutes five days a week.

During the winter, I walk my dog briskly between 30 minutes to an hour each day, often in the foothills near my home. When those hills are covered with snow, I’ll grab a pair of snowshoes so I can journey further out into the wilderness.  Two or three days a week are spent in a Nia dance class, which incorporates different movement groups and allows stretching, strength building and aerobic motion. 

But there are many different ways to move aerobically, such as jogging, spin classes and kick boxing. You can always do your daily aerobics in three 10-minute segments scattered throughout the day. Taking the stairs at work, or parking further away from the store (so you have to walk longer) are two easy ways to incorporate more movement into your daily routines. In other words, just stay active.

Strength Building and Stretches: Anyone who has gardened very long can tell you that this hobby requires a body that is flexible and strong. Regular stretches, along with a couple days of strength building exercises per week, will ensure you’re in good shape for gardening. These are four important body areas for gardening:

  • Stomach muscles are very important for gardening, but they are often the weakest ones. Strong abdominal muscles support your torso and protect your lower back from injury.
  • Back muscles help you carry those heavy potting soil bags, or allow you to dig in that compost without hurting yourself.

 

pushing a reel mower

 

  • Shoulders and arm muscles are needed for carrying those gardening bags from the car, or digging holes for those trees. They also come in handy when pushing that eco-friendly Fiskars® StaySharp™ Max Reel Mower, even if it is 60 percent easier to push than other reel mowers.
  • Leg muscles let you to squat, kneel and lift more efficiently, and with less pain. Incidentally, tight hamstrings can cause pain in the lower back and sciatica, so keep them stretched well too.

Pilates exercises one of the best ways to build a strong core, including abdominal and torso muscles. Done regularly, Pilates can improve your flexibility, circulation and postures. You may notice considerably less stiffness and pain in your back, neck and joints too.

Yoga is a proven way to build strength and stretch key muscles throughout the body. This ancient movement type dates back more than 5,000 years. Yoga is very focused on breathing and meditation – as well as movement – so it’s a great way to release stress, as well as get ready for gardening season.

Weight training will make those back, shoulder and arm muscles strong during the winter months. I use hand weights, resistance bands and a stability ball to supplement my gym workout. But others might prefer to work the circuit training machines at a gym. Keep in mind that gardening itself is like weight training, so it’s important to retain strong muscles during the off season.

Stretching can be done at home, in front of the television or even waiting in line at the post office.  One of the best stretching books I’ve read is the classic Stretching by Bob Anderson, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. There are many wonderful general stretches, as well as gardening-specific stretches.

Here are some strength training exercises to prevent gardening injuries, provided by Vanderbilt University’s Children’s Health Improvement and Prevention Department.

Be sure to check out these tips for stretching before gardening from Fiskars® Garden Writer Robin Haglund.