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How to Stay Fit – And Save on Gym Fees
Whether you are deadheading your annuals or hauling around the hose, make those gardening chores do double duty as an exercise routine
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Physical therapist Eli Glick, who is also a Master Gardener, checks out the form of longtime gardener Joe Manson (left) as he prepares to push a wheelbarrow in his Erdenheim back yard. Manson, 73, keeps fit by working in the extensive gardens in his back and front yards. To do a Wheelbarrow Push, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Tighten stomach muscles, and, keeping arms straight, lift barrow by using leg muscles.

    You don’t have to hit the gym to get a fitness fix.
    Just head into the garden.
    No matter how old you are, gardening is a great way to work out, says Eli Glick, a physical therapist with Wallace & Glick PT in Erdenheim.
    A brisk walk around the beds to evaluate the day’s chores or remove spent blossoms from your plants can get your heart rate up and increase your metabolism. And using something as simple as a watering can is a form of weight training.
    “A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, so if you move a two-gallon watering can from plant to plant, you are lifting a 16-pound weight,” says Glick, who’s also a Pennsylvania Master Gardener who enjoys working up a sweat tending extensive vegetable and ornamental gardens at his home in Lafayette Hill.
    You have to think about gardening as exercise, and do it that way until it becomes automatic: “If you are going to use a watering can as a weight, for example, do half the garden with the right hand, half with the left.”

Try this workout
    Lots of other gardening activities can do double duty as exercises, too.
    * If you are using a one-gallon watering can, for instance, hold the can with your arms at your side and do shoulder shrugs by lifting your shoulders up towards your ears, and alternating arms so both are exercised.
    * Do bicep curls by flexing the elbow while you are holding the watering can.
    * A garden hose can also provide weight training. Put it over your shoulder when you drag it from place to place. Don’t drain the water from it, and you’ll increase the weight.
    * Then there’s the wheelbarrow. Glick encourages gardeners to put all their tools into a barrow when they’re moving them around the garden: “They need to do a small squat when they lift the barrow, so that they lift with their legs and not their backs. And when they push it, with the weight of the tools in it, they are using their leg muscles, their tush muscles, and their trunks, while they keep their tummy muscles tucked in.”
    * Knees don’t work as well as they once did? Maybe it’s time to switch to raised beds or container gardening. That still requires movement, and movement is exercise. Even standing up to do gardening chores is helpful, especially to women, because it becomes a weight-bearing exercise for spine and leg muscles and helps prevent osteoporosis.

But don’t overdo it
    “Whatever gardeners’ physical capabilities are, they should be encouraged to work comfortably within their limits,” says Glick, who talks about fitness and injury prevention to gardening groups as part of his commitment to the Montgomery County Master Gardener program at the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Creamery.
    Generally, adds Glick, if you are fit enough to be gardening, you are fit enough to be doing it as exercise. But don’t overdo it. Remember that any exercise, if done improperly, can result in injuries. So if you haven’t done any gardening for a month or two, ease back into it cautiously. Change garden chores and positions frequently so you don’t put too much stress on any one body part.
    And always warm up first and do some gentle stretching before you get going. If you aren’t sure what kind of stretching you should be doing, check with your doctor or physical therapist.
    “The body has to be taken care of, just like the rest of your gardening equipment,” says Glick.


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Joe Manson Shows How He Exercises While Gardening

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To do the Watering Can Shoulder Shrug, fill a one-gallon watering can, and, with arm straight at side, shrug shoulder up, back, and down. Keep stomach muscles tight. Repeat 10 times, then switch arms.   To do a Watering Can Arm Curl, hold the filled watering can at your side, then flex your elbow and bend to a 90-degree angle. Keep stomach muscles tight. Repeat 10 times, then switch arms.
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Joe Manson practices what physical therapist Eli Glick calls the Hose Drag: Hold the hose over the shoulder, tighten stomach and buttock muscles, and pull the hose by using the leg muscles. For extra effort, try to walk with knees slightly bent, and fill the hose with water. This exercise works trunk and leg muscles.