It’s That Time of Year…..for Gardening and Yardwork!!

by Deb Brothers-Klezmer, BSN, RN-BC, CRRN, NCTMB & Wendy Midgley, MEd, RD, CDE

It is May in the Northeast USA and all is a-bloom, the grass a healthy green.  People are really enjoying being outdoors after the challenging winter!!

May is also a time for turning one’s focus to gardening and yardwork—(for those who like to do this themselves anyway!)

The benefits of being outside in general are many:

  • Reconnection with Mother Earth
  • Natural Stress Reduction
  • Improved mood and lifted spirits, reduced depression
  • An opportunity to increase one’s Vitamin D level in a natural way
  • (Free) Exercise in many forms; walking, hiking, water sports, gardening and yardwork
  • LOCAL PRODUCE!!!!—-If you like to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits….they are right there in your own back yard!

For those who like to get their hands in the dirt—-there are man steps along the way: from preparing the soil–raking, weeding, rototilling, spading, fertilizing, lifting bags of soil–to planting….and continued weeding all Summer!   Yardwork also involves removing fallen branches and brush, mowing the lawn—all good exercise requiring the utilization of many muscle groups.

While doing yardwork, it is wise to keep several points in mind:

  • Remember to stay well-hydrated.  Sip  water regularly.
  • Don’t do gardening/yardwork on an empty stomach.  Give yourself a combination healthy carbohydrate/protein mini-meal before beginning your work: e.g. a 1/2 turkey or peanut butter sandwich OR a fruit and handful of nuts OR a small protein shake (made of protein powder or yogurt and fruits like berries).  You may also need similar nourishment following an intense time of yardwork/gardening.
  • Remember to BREATHE!  Take deep breaths and oxygenate your cells with fresh air.
  • SUN and Vitamin D:  Enjoy the sun but also practice protection from overexposure to ultraviolet rays. 
  • Rules of thumb for Sun Exposure:     —Spend 10-15 minutes in non-peak sun hours, using no sun screen.  Peak sun hours are 10 AM-4  PM.  During that time, apply a sunscreen of at least 30SPF with UVB/UVA protection.
  • Pay attention to your body and muscles while you are working. These tips can help, e.g:  —Avoid extending your neck or staying on your knees for extended periods of time (20-30 minutes).—Use a small stool and knee pads to minimize back strain and support knees. —Pull your shoulder blades together, to avoid rounding of the back.  And —Use long handled and telescoping tools to reach instead of bending forward, which strains the hips and lower back.

Is gardening and yardwork NOT your thing?   Not in the realm of possibilities for you?!  It is not for everyone.  However, use opportunities this time of year to be outdoors in some fashion: like taking a 30 minute daily walk.

You may also want to to include other moderate level physical activities to full enjoy this time of year. In the following chart*, notice how many calories can be burned by doing just 10 minutes of physical activity!!!:

Calories Burned in 10 Minutes of Physical Activity*

ACTIVITY                         125 lbs person        175  lbs person         250+ lbs person

Light Gardening                          30                                   42                                     59

Weeding Garden                         49                                   68                                     98

Mowing Grass(manual)             38                                   52                                      74

Mowing Grass(power)              34                                    47                                      67

Bicycling 5.5 mi/hr                    42                                    58                                      83

Canoeing 4 mi/hr                      90                                     128                                  182

Dancing (moderate)                  35                                    48                                       69

Golfing                                        33                                     48                                      68

Running 5.5 mi/hr                   90                                     125                                   178

Swimming (crawl)                   40                                      56                                      80

Walking briskly 4 mi/hr         52                                      72                                     102

Too busy with young children at home to do any of the above activities?  No problem!   Pushing a baby stroller for 30 minutes requires 75 calories for a 125 lbs woman, 85 calories for a 150 lbs woman, and 105 calories for a 175 lbs woman.**

You can also go to the website: www.fitday.com to enter your personal information, get some tips on ways to burn calories for you.

Whether you are a gardener or not, enjoy this May and all that Mother Nature has to offer!!

*K. Brownell, weight loss management book:   The LEARN Program for Weight Control.

** website: www.caloriecount.about.com

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