Want good exercise? Go dig in your garden, says Bethany Village fitness expert

Cole shovel technique

Craig Cole demonstrates how to maximize exercise. Wide stance and hand grips distribute the work load among muscle groups – legs, hips and torso work with arms and back – and minimizes pain and safety risk. Using a lightweight shovel maximizes the work you accomplish for the effort you put into it.

You can walk, work and play your way to fitness. What better way than by gardening?

Every day, Bethany Village Exercise Physiologist Craig Cole advises residents how to use the well-equipped fitness center in the retirement community to maximum effect for healthy living.

But gardening can also yield great fitness results, he says, particularly for older adults.

Cole points to studies showing that 30 minutes of gardening daily can:

  • Increase metabolic rate 3-5 times over resting metabolic rate
  • Reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness (with strenuous tasks such as raking and digging)
  • Be used as therapy for those with arthritis
  • Improve hand and eye coordination
  • Enhance mood, provide relief from stress

As with working out in the gym, some forms and intensity levels of gardening can help us improve muscle strength, bone density, and energy level, while reducing risk of disease and assisting with weight control.

A 180-pound person can burn calories by gardening for 30 minutes:

  • Digging: 202
  • Weeding: 182
  • Raking: 162
  • Bagging leaves: 162
  • General gardening: 202

“That’s not just water, but actual body fat,” says Cole. “We feel healthier and we feel better.”

Cole says gardening has the added emotional and spiritual benefit of seeing something beautiful being created.

“There’s nothing like seeing a plant blossom to help you feel better. If you’re having a rough day, a little bit of gardening can brighten your mood!”

Safe gardening will help you maximize fun and minimize risk. We’ll discuss more in depth next time, but remember the basics: bend with knees and hips (not your back!), stretch regularly, use lightweight tools, use cushions for kneeling, avoid muscle fatigue by alternating use of muscles, and know when to ask for help and when to quit. We’ll also explore exercises to prepare for gardening.

To learn how you can put Craig Cole on your fitness team, contact the Bethany Village marketing department at 937-436-6850 or bethany@graceworks.org.