Gardening can have such a positive impact on your health. Just being outside in nature is great for mental clarity. Gardening helps keep blood pressure down and is good for the heart. It’s also a great stress reliever.
Then there are the secondary health benefits from growing your own food, like saving money at the grocery store on organic produce.
Because gardening chores are physical in nature, it’s important to keep your body conditioned so that you can be in your garden as often as you’d like. A lot of gardening activities require full-body movements–squatting down to weed, bending over to pick up tools and plants, pushing wheelbarrows, and carrying items from one place to another.
To keep your body strong, I recommend doing functional exercises that work the whole body and mimic the same movements you perform while gardening. What’s great these is you don’t even need a gym. You can do these exercises at home, and if you want to add weight, you can use canned goods, filled milk jugs, or other items you have around the house or garden shed.
As always, you should consult with a medical professional before starting an exercise program, especially if you have a history of pain or injuries.
Exercises for Gardeners
- Squats – These are great for strengthening your lower body and core. This will help you to lift heavy items, like bags of compost and planters, with your legs and also condition you for squatting to weed. Beginners should start with chair squats and then work your way up to a more advanced version with or without weights.
- Push-ups – Doing push-ups is one of the best ways to strengthen the upper body. The more of these you do, the more conditioned you’ll be for pushing things around, like wheelbarrows and lawn mowers.
- Deadlifts – Because we humans are forward-moving creatures, the front of our bodies tend to get more work that the back. Deadlifts are great for strengthening the posterior chain, or muscles of our backside—hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and upper back. Not only do these help offset bad posture from sitting, but also help with movements like bending over to pull a weed or to lift a bag of topsoil.
- Lunges – To strengthen your legs, especially the muscles around the knees, you can’t go wrong with a lunge. They are also great for adding strength and flexibility through the hips. Beginners should start with stationary lunges and work toward forward-stepping and walking lunges.
- Farmer’s Walk – These will train you for everything from carrying grocery bags from your car to your house to carrying buckets around the garden. You get the benefit of cardio and strength training with farmer’s walks. As you advance and build core strength, you can try doing these with only one arm loaded to help with balance.
- Planks – Core strength is important, and doing planks is the most efficient way to work on core strength. Think beyond your abs. The muscles around your trunk and pelvis make up the core, so we’re talking about the abdominals, lower and upper back muscles, and glutes. Start with a modified version of the plank and progress when you can.
- Woodchoppers and bicycle crunches – Rotational movements are often overlooked during exercise, but they are so important. Training your body with rotational exercises will help prevent injuries like pulling your lower back muscles. In our everyday activities and while gardening, we often don’t think before we twist to grab something, so we should make sure our bodies are prepared for these movements. Woodchoppers and bicycle crunches are great for training with rotation.
- Single arm row – Great for strengthening the upper back muscle, rows help offset rounded shoulders and other posture issues that come from excess forward movement. Rows will help prepare you for cranking that lawn mower—we all know how exhausting that can get!
Start incorporating these exercises into your daily routine, if you can. You’ll get stronger and hopefully those garden chores will be easier and more enjoyable. And don’t forget to stretch!