6 tips for raking in the physical benefits of yard work
Want to transform your yard and your body? Think gardening.
Raking up winter debris, spreading soil, yanking weeds, digging in the dirt, mowing…all these activities can equal a good workout. But the same way a workout can leave you sore and exhausted, so can yard work, unless you take steps to prevent the pain.
We asked Jaynie Falduto, a personal trainer at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital Health & Fitness Center in Barrington, Ill., for tips. Here’s what she suggests.
Warm up. Before doing heavy yard work, consider dynamic stretching. Swing your arms, lift your knees and side-swing your legs. You want to warm up your muscles as you would before a workout. Then do some static stretches for your hamstrings, quadriceps and low back. If you’re going to be doing lots of bending and squatting, a pre-yard work warm-up will help prevent muscle strain. Your hamstrings, quadriceps and low back will thank you.
Lift wisely. Among the most common complaints after a long stretch of yard work is back pain. Think before you lift a shovel full of compost, a bag of dirt or potted plants. To lift properly, use your legs, quads and glutes. Squat and lift. Don’t bend at your waist. Avoid twisting. Limit the amount you haul in each wheelbarrow load or each shovel of soil. Lots of people go out and overdo it, and then the next day, they can’t walk. Don’t let that happen to you.
Take breaks. Pushing a wheelbarrow and hauling mulch can elevate your heart rate and help you burn calories. That’s great – unless you overdo it. Build in some break time to stay on an even keel.
Cover up. On sunny days, you know you should protect your head, but don’t forget the back of your neck. Cover that, too, to avoid sunburn.
Stay hydrated. If you’ve got lots of outdoor spring cleaning to do, you’re likely to work up a sweat. Avoid dehydration by keeping a bottle of water handy.
Breathe deeply. Gardening is a great way to relieve stress. In addition to physical benefits, it also can provide emotional ones. So make the most of your time outdoors. Enjoy the fresh air!
About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.