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Cultivate Your Health With Gardening
by Marion Owen
November 29, 1999

Why do we say that 30 minutes of aerobics is exercise, yet digging a hole or building raised beds is work? If you think of your garden as your outdoor health club, your fitness will grow along with your flowers and vegetables.
As the days beckon us with activities around the yard and garden, try not to overdue it. to get a good, safe garden workout avoid straining your back and getting sore from doing the same thing for hours on end by following a few simple guidelines:

  1. Do several different activities or motions, such as turning soil, repairing a fence and planting for each gardening session, each one ranging from 5 minutes to an hour.
  2. Switch your position and stance every 5 to 15 minutes. (You know, crouch, then sit. Kneel on one leg, then two, then stand).
  3. Exaggerate your motions. Rake or hoe with wide, sweeping strokes, keeping movement smooth and steady.
  4. When lifting a potted plant, 5-gallon buckets filled with water or anything else in the garden, keep you back sraight, bend from your knees, and use your legs, not your back.
  5. Bend your knees as you dig, letting your legs, not your back or arms, do most of the work. Alternatie between a right-handed and a left-handed stance.
  6. When bending forward from a standing position such as hoeing, digging or planting, bend from your hips, not from your waist.
  7. If you must kneel, stand up and stretch frequently to avoid stiffness.
  8. Make sure you don't lift more than you can handle.
  9. Roll or push, rather than carry, heavy loads.
  10. Gardening equipment should suit your seze, build and physical capabilities. If you have arthritis in your hands, use garden tools with large handles. If you have a bad back, use toods with long handles.

Since gardening and yardwork is a physical activity, it also makes sense to limber-up before reaching for that shovel. Do some upper body twists and stretches. Throw in a few forward and side-bends. By following these simple guidelines, you might be sore at the slugs, but you won't be sore in your back.

Did you know that tending plants lowers your blood pressure and reduces stress, and that slugs prefer cheap American beer? Master gardener and teacher Marion Stirrup of Kodiak, Alaska provides gardening tidbits, recipes, giggles and more in her newsletter, The PlantPress. Marion is also President of Plantamins, Inc., happy makers of PlanTea, the organic fertilizer in tea bags. Visit her web site at or e-mail:

Marion Stirrup has given permission to reprint these articles.

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