Gardening isn't an aerobic activity, but it's a productive and satisfying way to cultivate some new, good health habits. While it isn't a traditional "sport," it can be quite a challenge to your body, involving every muscle and joint. So let's review a few things you should consider before, during and after you garden:
Before you garden: Warming up your major muscle groups before you put them to use lifting, bending, carrying and digging not to mention schlepping and dragging is a must.
Tight muscles in your arms and shoulders, legs and back are more easily injured than muscles that have been gently awakened by some focused stretching simple, common-sense moves linked to conscious breathing.
One way to know you are focused and stretching in a beneficial way is to listen to your breath as you inhale and exhale. The more your stretching can flow with the sound of your breath, the more you can release muscle tension and the easier and more satisfying your gardening will be.
During: Move with awareness the whole time you're in your garden. There's a right way and a wrong way to lift, bend and carry. The right way involves holding your spine in a neutral position, using the strength of your legs to lift instead of bending over at the waist, and carrying heavy loads close to your body instead of in front.
Protect your knees with knee pads. Shield yourself from unhealthy sun exposure. Use gardening tools that are sturdy, efficient and help instead of hurt you. And allow yourself to slow down in the garden, knowing that it's all about patience and perseverance.
In fact, gardening is a lot like life: You can do everything right, feel great about your progress, and the next thing you know, a family of rabbits comes along and eats everything.
Afterward: Don't just stop gardening. Instead, bring closure to it. Drink some water. Clean your tools and put them away. Scan your body for tense or sore spots. If you find some, do a yoga thing and breathe into the tight area, allowing it to open and relax.
Drink a glass or two of water after you garden and, depending on how much energy you've expended, have a piece of fruit, half a bagel or some yogurt mixed with cereal. This will replenish your reserves and move you to your next activity feeling energized, not fatigued.
Remember: Gardening can be a challenging activity for mind and body. Use your fertile imagination to find ways to make gardening comfortable and satisfying, a source of strength and flexibility. Cultivate new growth at all times for your fruit, your flowers and yourself.