A Guide to Painless Gardening

It's almost fall, and the lure of getting back in the garden is quite irresistible. Invigorated by all that balmy fresh air, you spend the first sunny day digging, planting, lifting, and hauling. The next morning, you pay.

A Guide to Painless Gardening t fall, and the lure of getting back in the garden is quite irresistible. Invigorated by all that balmy fresh air, you spend the first sunny day digging, planting, lifting, and hauling. The next morning, you pay.

Your thighs quiver. Your back tightens with every step. Even your wrists are sore when you bend them.

You forget about it every year when you go out for the first time. But there I am every year; bending at the waist, doing the crab walk to move to the next spot. After a few hours I need a crane to straighten up, and then I'm out of commission for the next three days.

Gardeners reap more than flowers, in a bad way.

There's a reason for all those aches and pains. Gardening is a great workout. It exercises all your major muscle groups and helps tone your body.

If you garden regularly, you can expect to get stronger, increase your range of motion, and become more limber.

Gardening is counted toward the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) recommendation to get a cumulative 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise every day, and not more. Gardening--defined by the CDC as weeding, trimming, and raking--burns roughly 500 calories an hour for men and about 350 calories an hour for women.

Besides adding to your overall physical fitness, tilling the soil can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic ailments. A University of Washington study found that people who walked or gardened for at least one hour a week lowered their risk of heart attack by 66 percent compared to those who did not exercise at all.

Sow an injury-free workout, But just as any sport can cause injury, so can the twisting, turning, and bending that gardening requires. If you don't prepare your body, you can expect aches, pains, and stiffness. This is particularly true if both you and your garden are just returning from a long winter's nap.

As with all activities, you have to warm up and stretchMost people don't stretch first, and that's job security for guys like me.

Everyone, from the well-spudded couch potato to the seasoned athlete, should warm up before gardening.

Pain-free gardening.

Here are some basic tips:

Here are some more tips for pain-free gardening:

Fertilizer for the soul. Besides being good for your body, gardening can lift your spirit as you revel in the sights, smells, and sounds of nature. Research shows that just viewing plants and trees makes people feel better, says Joel Flagler, a registered horticultural therapist at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Getting your hands dirty results in even more positive benefits. "We're creatures that love to nurture, and the greatest satisfaction comes from watching something develop because of our care."

Whatever you do, try and keep outdoor endeavors light and carefree.

USE TOOLS WITHOUT INJURIES

The length of your gardening tools is key. Ideally, when you stand the tool with the head on the ground, the handle should reach your waist.

Here are some other tips:

Good luck in your quest for painful gardening!

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