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Gardening works off the pounds

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:16 p.m. CST

There is an activity to breathe new life into discarded New Year’s resolutions. It offers cardio training, improves flexibility, builds muscle and helps to prevent osteoporosis. It can also lower stress and create an incentive to eat nutritious food – all without leaving home.

“Spring has arrived, days are getting longer, and gardening season is just around the corner. Gardening helps the pounds and inches melt away,” University of Illinois horticulture educator Martha Smith said.

“Even better, we don’t regard this as exercise because we have so much fun doing it. A quote from a fellow gardener says it all: ‘Gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor.’ ”

Gardening combines a hobby with a physical workout, Smith said, as gardeners bend, squat, walk and carry weight as a matter of routine. Gardening works all of the body’s major muscle groups.

“Think of the plants you could buy with all the money you spend on a health club membership you never use,” she said.

As with any physical activity, people who have been leading an inactive lifestyle should start slowly to avoid injury. Start with light activities and take frequent breaks. Set one daily gardening goal for the first one to two weeks, and increase activity over time.

The health benefits of gardening are impressive. Gardening uses all the major muscle groups, which do most of the calorie burning in the human body.“We garden because we enjoy it,” Smith said. “Get yourself and those kids off the couch and in the garden planting seeds, watching plants grow and being rewarded come harvest.”

Calorie Burners

Average number of calories burned in 30 minutes of activity by a person weighing 150 to 180 pounds:

• Sleeping: 33

• Watching TV or using the computer: 50

• Watering the lawn or garden: 64

• Mowing with a riding lawnmower: 93

• Raking leaves: 163

• Planting: 162

• Weeding: 165

• Digging or spading: 185

• Mowing with a push mower: 224

• Double digging: 244

Source: University of Illinois Extension

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