Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

Garden the Pounds Away
by Martha Smith
June 1, 2008

One activity not only provides exercise, cardiovascular training, and improved flexibility, but helps relieve stress and put food on the table, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"All of this and you don't even have to leave home or fight your way to the Stairmaster at a crowded gym," said Martha Smith. "Yes, gardening helps melt away the pounds and inches. Even better, we don't regard this as exercise because we have so much fun doing it."

As spring arrives and the days get longer, gardening season is just around the corner. And if those New Year's resolutions to eat better, lose weight, and exercise more have gone by the wayside, the onset of the gardening season provides a second chance.

"Gardening is a great way to combine a hobby and physical exercise. You bend, you squat, you walk, and you carry weights," she said. "The health benefits of gardening are impressive."

Gardening, she added, uses all the major muscle groups--the muscles that do most of the calorie burning in the human body.

"If you are a relatively inactive person, you should start slow," Smith said. "Strenuous activity too fast and all at once can lead to injuries. Start out with light gardening activities and take frequent breaks. Set one daily gardening goal for the first week or two and increase garden activities over time."

Numerous resources list the benefits of gardening. Most agree with the following list of how many calories a 180-pound person will burn in three hours:

--watering a lawn or garden, 61

--mowing a lawn with a riding mower, 101

--trimming shrubs with power tools, 142

--bagging or raking leaves, 162

--planting trees, 182

--weeding, 182

--digging/spading, 202

--general gardening, 202

--mowing with a push mower, 243

--double digging, 244.

"We garden because we enjoy it. Share this love with others. Get yourself and your kids off the couch and in the garden planting seeds, watching plants grow, and enjoying the reward of harvest," she said. "For children, a garden mentor can make all the difference. Show them you care and they will begin to care as well.

"Yes, you can garden excess pounds away. You will feel better, your clothes will fit once again, you will sleep better, and you will be rewarded with beautiful gardens that your family can enjoy."

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
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