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5 Tips for Maximizing Exercise While Gardening

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Gardening is one of those activities where you literally see the results of the seeds you sow. But for people with diabetes, gardening and yard work yield more than just fresh fruits and vegetables. Bending, carrying, hauling and digging all add up to the type of exercise that helps maintain and even reverse the course of Type 2 diabetes.

According to the journal Diabetes Care, combining moderate daily physical activity, such as gardening, with modest weight loss – an optimal result of exercise and healthy eating – has been shown to lower the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent in high-risk groups.

Additionally, scientific research indicates gardening burns serious amounts of calories. Activities such as using a spade or cultivating ground can burn between 300 and 400 calories per hour; planting shrubs and trees, 250 to 350 calories per hour; and turning over a compost pile, 100 calories per 15 minutes.

Interested in maximizing your exercise levels while gardening? Here are five tips to boost your efforts. Keep in mind that if you have diabetes, it’s important to consult your physician before starting any strenuous activities.

1) Do it Often

As with any exercise, the more you do it, the better the results. The National Institutes of Health recommends exercise, such as gardening, three to five times a week for 30 to 45 minutes as a way of combating obesity, a contributing risk factor for diabetes.

2) Exaggerate your Movements

Achieving the maximum range of motion while gardening helps tone major muscle groups. Try bending your knees while raking, for example, or placing a crate between planting beds that requires you to step up and down as you move along.

3) Vary Your Activities

Rotate through a variety of gardening tasks each week in order to maximize the use of all muscle groups. For example, try alternating heavy-duty digging with light flower deadheading, or weeding one day and mowing the lawn with a push mower the next.

4) Build Muscles

Many gardening tasks are comparable to light weight lifting at a gym. Good muscle-building activities include mulching and planting beds, which require lifting, shoveling and pushing a heavy wheelbarrow; or turning a compost pile, which requires using a pitchfork or hoe to move large amounts of material.

5) Do it the Harder Way

Depending on the size of your yard, grounds maintenance such as lawn mowing may either involve using a riding mower, a push mower or a manual reel mower. If you have a choice, opt to use a manual reel mower, which offers the best cardiovascular exercise. A man using a manual reel mower would burn up to 250 calories per half-hour.