Gardeners! You don’t need a Gym membership. You can get all the exercise you need in your own backyard while wearing your normal, sensible clothing. (Lycra? Who needs it?)
However, like everything worthwhile in life, you shouldn’t try to do too much, too soon. This is especially true if you are not fit or you are getting over an illness or injury. You need to build up your fitness by gradually increasing the length and intensity of your gardening sessions.
Movements involving lifting, pushing, pulling, squatting and stretching can all improve your muscle strength, however take care not to cause yourself a temporary or permanent injury.
Watch your lifting techniques. A pot can become extremely heavy once filled with potting mix and water. Always bend your knees and engage your core muscles.
Avoid hunching your back to avoid back, hip and shoulder pain.
Don’t spend extended periods reaching above your head, like when cleaning out the gutters, or trimming tall trees or hedges, especially if you have a heart condition.
Stay hydrated. Take regular breaks and drink plenty of water, especially on hot days when you can dehydrate very quickly and become sun-stroked and faint.
When hosing around hard surfaces, ensure your footwear soles have a non-slip grip to avoid slipping over and breaking bones. This is especially important for smooth, mouldy and mossy surfaces after extended rain periods.
When operating machinery like lawnmowers, hedge and line trimmers, ensure that you are wearing closed in shoes. Better still, steel capped boots.
Avoid looking up for a long time, to avoid putting a strain on your neck muscles. It can make you feel light-headed, and it’s especially dangerous if you are on the ladder.
Make sure you have a buddy holding the ladder in case it moves or you need assistance in a hurry.
Wear garden gloves when trimming thorny plants and putting your hands into places where you cannot see what is lurking behind the bushes – especially in summer when spiders and snakes are most active. This can also save you a lot of blood when cleaning out roof-guttering, too!
Wear eye, nose, mouth and skin protection when mixing and spraying chemicals.
After each gardening session, it is a good idea to do some gentle stretching of your arms, legs, neck and back muscles to avoid next-day muscle stiffness or pain.
Regular gardening sessions will gradually improve your fitness and keep your body flexible, not only saving you money on Gym fees, but also the embarrassment of ‘Active Wear’… (if you’ve ever seen that YouTube clip, you’ll know what I mean.)
If you would like to read more from Glenda you can visit her blog: Growing Snowballs
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N.B. This article has been written for Australian gardens. If you're reading this from around the world, we do hope you've found it a useful stepping stone for your own further research.