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Garden Keep Fit

By garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin. Early Spring is a great time for getting out in the garden and doing a lot of groundwork.

There are still leaves to be swept, borders to clear and trees to prune. Laying the ground work for this year's planting such as digging new beds and borders, re-laying turf, spreading and digging in manure and laying paving are all good jobs for this time of year.

Most of these tasks will make you break into a sweat and at this time of the year when we're trying to catch up with our resolutions to loose a few pounds that's no bad thing. Gardening can help supplement the gym and a bit of fresh air after a cold wet winter will do us all a bit of good.

In fact there's even some good advice from fitness experts showing us that regular gardening can help reduce the risk of heart disease and suffering a stroke. It can reduce high blood pressure, keep muscles, joints and heart in good working order and reduce the risk of both osteoporosis and diabetes in middle age. Did you know that for an average person 30 minutes of digging can burn off about 250 calories and even light weeding can melt off 140. But for me the real benefit of gardening is probably just that when you're out there digging a border all the stress of the working week just melts away.

But there's another side to working in the garden that we need to remember if these positive benefits are going to work on us and that's gardening in the right way. Why? Well don't get too carried away with your enthusiasm, you need to garden safely as well! In 2003 lawn mowers were responsible for 7133 accidents which is a fair indicator that not everyone is doing the gardening in a sensible way. So what can we do to make sure that we do reap the benefits from digging and weeding?

  • Warm up first - and you can do this quite easily. Take a walk around the garden, gently stretch muscles especially in the back and arms and start with some light work such as pruning to get started. And at the end of the day do the same again, warm down and stretch muscles especially those that feel overworked.
  • Don't try to last a whole day in the garden without food, eat little and often to keep your energy going.
  • Take regular breaks and make sure you drink regularly - water to keep you hydrated is essential but you can also reward yourself with a cuppa and a Belgium bun!
  • Use tools that are the right size for you. You'll be amazed how much easier it is to plant with a smaller spade even if you are 6 foot tall.
  • Needless to say you'll have some lifting and digging to do so make sure you lift safely.
  • Always bend your knees and not your back.
  • Dress appropriately - wear gloves to protect hands, use sunscreen if you're lucky to get a hot sunny day and protect your feet (the lawnmower remember?).
  • Make sure tools are in good working order. Get frayed cable replaced professionally, keep petrol cans safe and out of reach of small hands.

This might all seem a bit obvious but if the A&E statistics are anything to go by then I'm pretty sure that most of us are not too thoughtful when we head out into the garden. Just take it slowly, warm up to it and have a good hot bath to unwind at the end of a calorie busting day.

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin

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