How to grow muscles in your garden

You can smell it in the air: gardening season. Us Canadians are pretty much obsessed with getting our hands dirty and planting seeds that flourish into something beautiful to gaze at and to eat. 

No month says ready, set, garden quite like the month of May, particularly on a weekend, when Mother Earth has warmed up enough to slip in a spade and Jack Frost has made a hasty retreat. 

It’s a great time to connect with nature, breathe the fresh air and get some outdoor activity. Whether you have a backyard or balcony garden, whether you’re a member of a community garden or a volunteer green thumb at your local city or town park – here are some garden-related activities that you can work into a workout. 

Rake and roll

Much of the prep work in gardening involves clearing winter and autumn debris, which means using our shoulders, arms and core muscles for raking. Raking is tough work so if you start to feel fatigued, try switching sides every few minutes. 

Bending and bagging

Now that you’ve raked up the dried leaves, branches, weeds and grasses, it’s time to place them in recyclable paper waste bags, which requires bending and bagging. This is a great workout for our abs, backs and legs. You can make this task more challenging by scooping up bigger, heavier handfuls or stick with smaller loads. Your legs and core muscles will love you for it. 

Push it 

Pushing a wheelbarrow or lawnmower activates a multitude of muscles in our arms, chest, legs, core and back. Wheelbarrow loads can be “customized” to suit our physical abilities, but they can also be unwieldy, so pointing it in the direction you want to go before filling it up is a good idea, as is stacking the load close to the wheel to make lifting smoother. And when you do lift, let your legs do the work!

Gardening can be taxing work, to be sure. But think of it like this: with gardening, we get a four-for-one: 

  1. Fresh air 
  2. Physical activity 
  3. Even on overcast days we are absorbing vitamin D from the sun. According to Stats Can, approximately 32 per cent of Canadians fall below the level considered sufficient for healthy bones (400 UI to 800 UI daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) based on age).
  4. And, numerous studies have found that exposure to nature improves our mental health. So, dig in and quadruple your benefits: mind, body, soul and sun.