Gardening is one of the best activities for your mind and body. Whether you’re mowing the lawn, planting seeds or reaping a bountiful harvest, your body benefits from the stretching and bending. Your mind benefits from helping to create life and beauty on the planet and from the connection to the earth as well as the chemicals produced by the brain when you exercise.
As much fun and rewarding as it may be, the bending and stretching can wreak havoc on your knees and lower back and unless you practice the proper ways to perform the most common gardening movements, you could become stiff and sore in the joints.
I am going to share all 40 tips but work with the ones you feel comfortable with to exercise and stay fit while gardening so you can enjoy it more and make your gardening efforts more productive.
Building Strength for Bending
Standing with legs slightly apart, use two lightweight dumbbells (one in each hand) and take turns sliding each dumbbell down each leg. Keep back and shoulders straight so spine doesn’t bend forward. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Hand Strength to Grip Gardening Tools
Holding a hand exerciser (gripper) in one hand – flex your fingers toward your palm, squeezing the two handles together like you’re going to make a fist. Repeat five times for each hand.
The Proper Way to Bend
Keeping your knees slightly bent, tighten your leg muscles as you’re bending forward in the garden. You’ll be using your abdominal muscles as well as your leg and back muscles, so it’s important you perform bends properly.
Rows for Raking and Mower Starting
Perform rows (inverse push-up) for abdominal muscles. Keep your body straight and push up using your abdominal muscles -- with 90 degree bend in elbow. Tighten abdomen while lifting calves and feet from ground. 10 repetitions.
Simple, But Effective Warm Up for Bending
Standing straight, relax your shoulders and torso. Lean back slightly (engaging your abdominal muscles) and bend your knees slightly at the same time. Slowly repeat this exercise for about 15 to 20 seconds.
Loosen Your Shoulder Muscles
Standing straight, raise both shoulders toward your ears. Relax. Now, raise arms straight above your head and grasp your hands together. Relax. Repeat each exercise five to ten times.
Balance and Leg Strength
In a standing position, place your left arm out straight for balance. Raise your left leg backwards at the knee and grasp it with your right hand. Hold for a few seconds. Repeat with right leg. About 5 repetitions.
How to Push a Wheelbarrow
First, don’t place a lot of weight in the front of the wheelbarrow. Keep back straight and push with your core rather than your legs so you’ll maintain balance and keep from slipping.
Squats for Leg Strength
Put your weight on heels (you can point toes up to ceiling if necessary) and keep lower back in alignment. Squat without letting back round toward front. This one will also strengthen gluts and thighs.
Carrying Buckets and Bins
Keep abs tight while carrying large water bottles (1 gallon to 3 gallon – up to 25 pounds) back and forth across the yard to get ready for carrying buckets and bins during gardening time. Work up to the higher weights.
Pulling Weeds and Staking Trees
This is a diagonal exercise, performed by diagonally lifting a weight from outside one knee, then over and above the opposite shoulder. Bring the weight back down and repeat on the other side for 5 to 10 times.
Strong Core for Chopping Wood
Chopping wood is similar to the “Pulling Weeds” exercise, except you can vary the benefits by performing it dynamically and increasing your cardiovascular workout – plus squatting at the same time.
Lunging for Weeds
Lunge by using your entire torso to work your butt and thighs as you move forward. Don’t lean down or let your knee touch the floor, but keep your back straight. Do the same when you’re weeding the garden.
Mowing with a Hand Mower
The proper way to hold your body is straight, but standing a few feet away from the mower’s blades. Push with your entire body as you walk across the lawn for a great cardio workout.
Better Balance in the Garden
Using a Swiss ball, place one hand on the ball while standing with leg (same side) behind ball. Other hand holds a dumbbell, palms upward. Hold opposite leg off floor about 12 inches and bend at hips with flat back.
Raking, mowing, digging and weeding can all get your heart rate up, but alternate between the movements every few minutes to keep your back from suffering from the exertion in one area.
Bend the Knees – Not the Waist
When you lift heavy objects or use long-handle tools such as a hoe, avoid bending at the waist to accomplish the task. Bend at the knees to keep from straining your back.
Warm Up Stretches
Before embarking on gardening chores, take some time to warm up by stretching your muscles (arm, torso and legs) for five or ten minutes. Then, repeat the stretching warm-up after you’ve gardened for 15 or 20 minutes.
Mix It Up
Vary your gardening chores rather than working for an hour at one chore such as weeding or hoeing. It will be less of a strain on the muscles and will provide a full body workout rather than just one area.
Always Cool Down
Especially during the dog days of summer – be sure to walk around after gardening exercises. Pick flowers, vegetables or simple enjoy the beauty of what you’re accomplishing.
Standing with legs slightly apart, hands on waist – twist to the right from the waist (upper torso) as far as you can. Your shoulders and head should also be engaged in the twisting motion.
Rear Deltoid Raises Using a Resistance Band (Shoulders)
Begin on all fours and place the resistance band in front of you. Hold one side of band with left hand and grasp other side with the right. Lift the right arm (with band) to shoulder level. Repeat with left side for 3 to 5 repetitions.
Glut and Thigh Stretches
Sit on floor with legs out in front of you. Cross a leg over the other – foot perpendicular to the quad, using your elbow to lean on and stretch as you’re looking away from the upward knee. Repeat two times for each leg.
Wrist and Forearm Warm-up Stretch
Standing or sitting, extend your right arm in front of you, palm facing out and fingers up. Use the left hand to lightly pressure your left hand, pulling your fingertips toward your face. Keep shoulders relaxed.
Stretch Your Neck for Comfort
Begin seated with legs crossed. Bend your neck to bring your right ear towards your right shoulder and hold. Now, roll head toward ground, bringing chin to chest and hold. Roll head to left and repeat twice.
Butterfly Exercise for Hips and Thighs
Sitting on floor with back straight and shoulders down with feet together and knees bent to side, engage your abs and pull the heels slowly toward you while relaxing your knees to the floor. Hold for ten to 30 seconds.
Abundance of Fresh Air
Take deep breaths of fresh air for lungs, circulation and optimal health while gardening. Breath in through you nose deeply, filling your lungs. Breathe out through your mouth, slowly releasing the air.
Yoga Child’s Pose to Stretch Back
On hands (shoulder-width apart) and knees (hip-width apart) be sure back is straight and abs are engaged. Shift weight over your heels while lengthening spine. Relax head and neck as you reach forward with fingers.
Keep Hamstrings Stretched
Stand with back straight, shoulders down, with feet hip-width apart. Engage your abs and bring right leg forward with heel down and toes up. Bend left knee like you’re sitting back as you’re supporting yourself with hands on thighs.
Advanced Stretch for Long Reaches
Lying in plank position, lift right foot from floor and slide right knee toward the left hand (ankle and knee are on floor). Slide left leg back as far as you can, keeping hips forward and square.
Hip Rotation Stretches
Lie on back, legs and back straight. Bend left knee and place left foot flat on floor. Cross right ankle at left knee. Now, grasp the back of the left thigh, hugging leg toward chest. With right elbow on right knee, push knee to side.
Increase Stride Length
Facing wall (about a foot away), extend arms, placing hands flat on wall (elbows bent). Keep feet flat and step out with your right foot while lengthening your left leg. Feel the stretch in your calves.
Stretch Knee Muscles
Stand with right side of body an arm’s length from wall. Cross left leg in front of right leg. Relax shoulders. With opposite hands on hip, bend left elbow and push right hip to wall. Hold 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.
Use Medicine Ball to Strengthen Legs
Lie on left side, body in straight line. Hold medicine ball between legs, above ankles -- head in one hand and other hand on floor to support. Squeeze ball with legs while slowly lifting both legs off floor. Lower legs and repeat.
Shoulder, Arm and Hand Stretch
Three way stretch – holding arms straight out from shoulders, interlace fingers, knuckles pointed toward face. Stretch arms out from shoulders, flexing fingers/hands forward.
Keep Your Knees Safe
When kneeling during your gardening chores, be sure to use a knee pad. Also, make it a point to kneel on both knees simultaneously to avoid twisting or straining.
Keep Tabs on Your Time
It’s easy to get carried away with gardening chores and work at one task too long. Vary the tasks from planting to mowing or hoeing to harvesting. Take frequent breaks and drink lots of water to stay hydrated and fit.
Lateral Stretches for Shoulders and Back
Stand, feet together and knees slightly bent. With left hand on hip, stretch right arm over your head next to your ear. Engage abs and lean torso to left and slowly reach left with the right arm. Repeat on other side.
Stretch It All Out – An Overall Stretch for the Entire Body
Feet together and legs bent slightly, bend forward – arms behind back and fingers laced together. Weight should be even on each foot. Relax head, shoulders and neck and lift arms over head and line up with shoulders. Breathe.
Don’t Overdo It
Gardening exercises should be performed to the point of discomfort -- not pain. Perform all motions slowly and make these exercises part of your gardening chores. Gardening is a great way to reap beauty and bounty – and, keep fit.
When you mimic the motions of the above tips and exercises in your gardening tasks, your body will gain strength and you won’t suffer the pain which some gardeners feel after a day of working outdoors. Gardening is a great way to get fit – and enjoy your creativity.