18 November, 2008

10 Ways to Garden Yourself Skinny

Weight loss and gardening...really? Is there a connection? Of course there is!

We all want to be healthy, fit, and many of us want to slip into slimmer party clothes for the days when we've dusted the dirt from our heels. But who has time (or money) for gyms, memberships, classes, and equipment? Not I, said the City Mouse.

I began my own weight loss journey at the end of Aussie winter, sometime around early August. Since then, I've managed to slough off a respectable 12 kg (that's over 26 lbs, for the Americans out there). There were several aspects to the whole deal, but the most significant of these was, you guessed it, gardening.

My nightly hour of garden upkeep, and weekend half-day blitzes, have played a huge role in my newly increased fitness. It feels great when you see the scale creep downward, and when clothes begin fitting better than ever before. And, in the process, I made food grow! Personally, I find fitness a whole lot more palatable when it has deeper purpose than what might seem like vanity.

There's still a fair bit to go, on the veggie patch and my waistline, but I just thought I'd share ten great ways to get fit while gardening.

1. Shining it up: Getting your dose of sunshine each and every day is the perfect way to boost your body’s levels of Vitamin D, a vital ingredient for strong bones and a healthy immune system. Keep those ankles strong for your next power-walk by getting out in the garden and letting the sun shine in.

2. Raising the roof: Hammering, lifting, drilling, and filling. If you don’t see the calorie burn in landscape construction, you aren’t looking! Build a bench in your favorite flower bed, or reach for the sky with a homemade tomato trellis and your body will build right along with it. One hour of general home project-making burns off between 200 and 400 calories, depending on what's topping your To-Do List, today.

3. Getting dirty: Squat, lunge, thrust, bend! Nope, not a gym class on whole body toning, but it may as well be. Grabbing the shovel and hand-working your backyard veggie patch will get those biceps showing, thighs tightening, and it’ll shrink your belly too. Add in some weeding for butt-firming squats and you’ve got a full body workout right outside your door. Weeding knocks off around 296 calories for each hour. Digging earns you an extra 40, on top!

4. Stretching it out: Increasing flexibility is always a good bet when it comes to getting in shape. It builds endurance, strength, and helps stave off a laundry list of injuries and strains. The garden is full of rigorous stretching routines just begging to be discovered. Prune a tree or pluck a plum and you’ll feel the stretch down to your core. And the senior-most putterers amongst us don't have to miss out a bit! Table-top gardens allow for a lot of the same movements, with less back stress.

5. Walking to the beat: Pop in those earbuds and grab your watering can. Turn daily watering chores into a beat-driven frolic in the flowers. A spring in your step, set to music, can serve to increase your walking pace and boost your heart rate. Sing while you work and you'll exercise your respiratory system at the same time. Your plants will thank you, and your heart will too!

6. Getting brighter everyday: If knowing really is half the battle, then gardeners are winning the war! It takes real green smarts to make that garden grow, and what better way to plan your nutrition than to know where it comes from? Growing veggies in your back yard, patio, or even a balcony, can grow a wealth of knowledge, not just great food. We do so much for our veggies, so get to know what each veggie does for you. Don't just plant it. Know it.

7. Lifting you higher: Who doesn’t feel better after seeing a rose bloom, or a berry burst forth? Gardens are well known as stellar mood enhancers, and the fresh air can’t be beat. Carve yourself out a little corner with a view that allows you to truly appreciate the bounty you've scratched from the green earth, or take an evening stroll through your favorite beds, not working, just walking, and admiring what's around.

8. Cleaning up your act: One thing about which nearly all dietitians can agree is that chemicals in your food are doing you no favors. Organic is the way to go for optimum nutrition, but the prices can often send you running for the frozen peas! As homesteaders and semi-steaders, we have a unique advantage in that we have 100% control over everything we feed our food.

9. Reaping what you sow: Nothing beats harvesting the evening’s dinner salad from your home-grown garden. Fresh corn, peppers, fruits, and greens help us add vital nutrition to every meal. This is not news to the seasoned gardener. We wouldn't do this without knowing the value of fresh food, cooked with love. But there's always room for improvement, right? Next planting season, make a concerted effort to have a veggie of every hue in your garden patch. Antioxidants, vitamins, and healthful enzymes come in every shade of the vegetable rainbow.

10. Sleeping it off: All that gardening will wear you out! No more listless nights and bouts of insomnia, that’s for sure. Studies have shown that the hormones produced during a full, solid night’s sleep aid in reducing pesky belly fat, and we all know great sleep recharges you for the next day’s good mood and healthy living. The sleep brought by hard, satisfying work will set you firm and fast on the road to a slimmer, healthier you.

So, there you have it! Many of you out there are doing every single thing on this list, whether you call it fitness or not, and kudos to you! Let this serve as a pat on the back for taking care of your health and family.

But, next time a friend tells you they long for a leaner, meaner shape, you can spread the gardening gospel as a path toward health. If a pal is down in the mouth, and needs a self-esteem and confidence boost, let them know that nothing makes you smile like your plants bursting with fruit.

If you've got this fitness gig nailed, why not invite your gang over for an afternoon gardening together? After all, almost all things are best when shared.


The W.O.W. factor said...

I love your last sentiment! All things better shared...Amen!
Now..#1, the Vit D theory.
I told my Dr over a year ago that I LIVE outdoors, have every spring, summer, fall and a lot in the winter.
I get plenty of the D factor!.
...as he told me I have Osteoporosis...He informed me that I MUST ingest it also!! That means milk...and I'm not a huge fan of.I'll just keep sticking to YOUR health guidelines!

Kelly the City Mouse said...

W.O.W.: Aren't you in the PacNW? If so, your doc, sadly, may be right :( There are whole regions of North America (pretty much anywhere above the Mason Dixon) that never receive enough UV exposure, even in summer, to deliver adequate Vitamin D.

I know that some folks recommend getting a sun lamp that has UV rays, and spending a few minutes (no more than 10-15 per day) under it's lovely rays. It's also excellent for gloomy winter moods.

So! It is now medically necessary for you to build yourself a (or another?) glorious hot house so that you can get adequate Vit D!

Interestingly enough, my MIL is brown as a berry, lives here in UV-drenched Oz, and still has a Vitamin D deficiency, due to her body simply not metabolizing it anymore. She has to take supplements. Oy vey!