Gardening For greatness

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

What are you growing this spring? If you are a gardening aficionado, the answers may include beefsteak tomatoes, 3 varieties of lettuce, sugar snap peas, herbs and zucchini. These have all the makings of a truly healthy diet, and no doubt will be incorporated into culinary delights for the family to enjoy all summer long.

While that may be all that you are seeking from your garden, wait…there’s more! There are many benefits to be cultivated from the good earth in the backyard, including a hefty dose of exercise.

Unbeknownst to most weekend gardeners, tending a vegetable patch or flowerbed can be great for your body mechanics. It is possible to train all the major muscle groups while toiling in the soil: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdomen. Simply consider the shoveling, hoeing, schlepping heavy bags of mulch and pushing wheelbarrows to be an outside version of weightlifting at your Fitness Center.

Tasks that utilize these muscles will not only build strength but also burn calories.  A study conducted at Iowa State University demonstrated how these numbers add up significantly.  If the average woman spends 30-45 minutes gardening, she can expect the following results:  digging holes burns 150 calories; planting burns 135 calories; and weeding burns 156 calories!  When you consider the healthy foods that are being grown in the process, this adds up to a double win!

Aside from the physical “work” itself being accomplished in the absence of stress and impact, gardening also incorporates a plentiful dose of stretching. Reaching for and pulling weeds, removing tall branches, and the bending involved in caring for the budding plants combine to provide a decent amount of flexibility work and joint strengthening.

If your 40-hour-a-week job tethers you to a desk, the mere act of getting outside and breathing fresh air for an afternoon renders gardening a great way to rejuvenate your mind, soul and spirit.  By unplugging from all forms of technology for a while, and allowing your creative side to dominate, you can discover ways in which to connect with the earth and create something beautiful, healthy and supremely satisfying.