A selection of work on the benefits of gardening to keeping fit and how to avoid injury while tending your plot by Andrew Spaak of the West Berkshire Injury Clinic.
Is gardening exercise?
The simple answer is YES! There was an article published by the Telegraph a few years ago and it stated that, “you can maintain a good level of fitness and burn a significant amount of calories,” while getting your fingers green.
The article was appropriately titled “The Garden Workout” and I think that says everything.
As with any form of exercise while gardening you get out what you put in. Your fitness will improve relative to the amount of work you put in, as will the visual results on your patch whether it be nicely arranged flowers, well pruned shrubs, tasty vegetables or a beautifully cut lawn.
However just pottering around will have a lot of benefits and although it won’t have the same impact as the digging, weeding or moving the lawn with a push along mower it is activity which can be very helpful as you get older.
Now what sort of exercise? If you think about it when you’re gardening you’re squatting, lunging, bending over to get those pesky weeds removed, reaching up and extending your shoulders and back to prune or cut back trees and hedges, etc…
One of the mistakes that people make is thinking that they can just go straight in and do a days gardening without a warm up and without stretching afterwards. They’re then puzzled as to why they’re feeling sore for 3 or 4 days afterwards!
WebMD states that when gardening you can burn 200-600 calories per hour depending on the intensity of the gardening. Myfitnesspal.com states that you can burn between 180-700 calories in an hour in a gym workout dependent on the intensity and the type of exercise. There ain’t much difference between the two.
Suprised? You shouldn’t be!
So, if you are wanting to do a lot of work in the garden build up the time and intensity of your gardening. Warm up by doing some light work and then when you’re finished stretch off the muscles used and have that hot bath and stretch afterwards. Maybe a cold beer or wine to celebrate your achievements.
Did you know that in 2014 to 2017 there were 25,763 gardening and DIY related injuries according to the BBC (24/5/2018). 90% of those injuries were incurred by Men!
Now we’ll not be making any comments about the relative common sense of men and women or the splitting of household jobs between the sexes in this article. In the light of such a shocking stat, we will be highlighting the need for care when gardening.
Admittedly, the BBC were focussing on reported injuries which tend towards the extreme; what won’t be reported back are the bad backs, sore muscles, and other bodily aches we associate with garden work.
So, What causes these things?
The more extreme injuries will quite often be caused by negligence: not looking at the instructions for machinery, not wearing appropriate safety equipment, or not maintaining appropriate levels of care and attention.
However, the bulk of niggles and injuries are mainly around these areas:
- Trying to do too much in one go.
- Not warming up properly.
- Not cooling down and stretching.
I am going to go through each element in detail.
Trying to do too much in one go!
As I previously stated, people forget that gardening is exercise. You do need to plan it out and try not to do too much in one go. Plan what needs to be done; Does the fence need to be painted? If Yes, then do you need to do it all in 1 go? Probably not! Do as much as you can and, as with exercise, push yourself a little bit but don’t overdo it.
If you need move things things, lift properly. As Herr Flick of the Gestapo would say, “Bend Ze Knees”.
If you’re doing some weeding, seek out advice on the proper way of going about it. For practical advice, the article at – www. wikihow.com/pull-weeds – covers everything from using the right tools and techniques to protecting yourself against the sun.
I’ve not covered everything but hopefully it gives you an indication.
Not warming up properly!
Now I’m not expecting you to go for a jog or do some press ups, but try and start your gardening with light activity then build it up, prepare properly by getting everything you need into place before you start, push that mower gently, do a little bit and then have a break before carrying on and getting it finished. If you don’t follow these simple instructions then you’re more likely to injure yourself, and to struggle in the days after completing your gardening. Don’t think it will take time out of what you’re doing as it won’t and will help in the long term.
Not cooling down properly!
Now a little bit of gentle stretching isn’t going to do any harm at all and I will do a facebook live covering some of the gentle stretches that can be done before getting started in the garden. But you don’t necessarily have to stop there. While putting things away and kitting yourself out for new jobs, why not do some gentle stretches to stay limber?
Then how about a hot bath to ease those tired muscles. It will help in the days after.
Hope this has helped and please ask any questions that you may have to me.
West Berkshire Injury Clinic can be reached at:
Telephone: 01635 904542