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Page 48 Gardening - Sláinte Magazine

’  y g  e e  ‘gr OOR D R U O Y E D I S T OU

In his latest article for Sláinte, award-winning horticulturist Fiann Ó Nualláin explains how keeping at those regular garden chores can provide all the exercise you need to help keep you in tip-top shape.

We’re now well and truly into the year,

causes some 2 million deaths each

so are all your New Year fitness

year. Walking, cycling and leisure

Bur th calorie!

resolutions still full steam ahead… or

activities such as dance classes are

OK, so if you are new to gardening,

barely afloat? It’s the nature of good

great ways to get fit – and so, of

some of it can be quite strenuous.

intentions to begin losing momentum.

course, is gardening, with a new and

But you work to your own pace and

But don’t worry, there is a simple and

growing recognition that the different

it is the everyday tasks that

pleasurable solution – get yourself

tasks involved in gardening provide

contribute to physical regime.

not only aerobic exercise, but also

Mowing your lawn with a push

isotonic and isometric exercise, too!

mower is a cardiovascular workout

some garden-grown fitness! We’re always being encouraged to

but also burns calories (up to 360

improve the quality of our lives and

This trinity of exercise modes boosts

calories an hour), while manual

boost our health by practicing regular,

strength, endurance and flexibility. In

weeding and hedge trimming with

moderate physical activity. With the

fact, gardening is one of the best all-

shears can burn an equivalent

obesity crisis and the ballooning incidents of

round exercises, competing with

amount. Raking has the potential to

cycling, swimming and walking in

burn around 320 calories an hour,

helping prevent heart disease, obesity,

while more strenuous tilling or

diabetes, depression, fatigue, cancer

digging can burn up to 400 calories

and osteoporosis.

per hour. A mix of activities will burn calories more effectively and also

Your ‘gree gy’ The best thing is that the garden as

diabetic, cholesterol, and blood pressure-related

a green gym is a sustainable gym.

Buildin muscle

There are no fees, no traveling there

As for building muscle mass, did

and back, no nagging sense of

you know that a watering can with a

obligation – just a pastime that

gallon of water in each hand is

brings pleasure, aesthetic reward

equivalent to the 8-pound

and numerous health benefits. The

dumbbells in your local gym? I am

green gym burns calories, build

not advocating you do a weightlifting

muscle, de-stresses the mind…

workout with two full watering cans,

and it’s all just outside your door.

but you can seek out the hidden

Gardening, rich in fresh air and

in everyday garden tasks.

exercise and workout opportunities

health conditions (costing the health service around 400 million

work different muscle groups.

euros a year), fitness is high on the

sunshine (you only imagine it’s

agenda. In Ireland today, nearly one

raining), is an agreeable experience

Simple jobs such as sweeping paths,

in five adults are obese and four out

before you even pick up a spade or

raking leaves and hoeing weeds

of ten are overweight. A regular,

tend to a task. It’s ‘open air’ and

brings your upper body muscles into

preferably daily, exercise regime of

‘connected to nature’ nature,

play, for example, and if you do them

just 30-45 minutes can make all

combined with the sense of purpose

regularly, will train and tone your

and achievement that gardening

biceps, triceps and deltoids along

brings, also enhances your

with the trapezius and latissimus

And it’s not just Ireland. Obesity

psychological wellbeing, which then

dorsi muscles. Aerating the lawn or

is now the most prevalent

improves your physical health.

digging over a bed benefits the lower

the World Health Organisation

And the physical activities of

strengthen your gluteus maximus

estimates that physical

gardening – digging, weeding,

and quadriceps.

the difference.

body, and can be used to tone and

childhood disease in Europe, while


watering, pruning, and so on – all have plentiful beneficial

Who knew a few hours each week

physiological effects.

in the garden could lead to a flat

Each benefits not just the

tumy and tight buns! So why not

cardiovascular and

swap the treadmill for the

musculoskeletal systems,

lawnmower, the rowing machine for

but also the metabolic,

the rake, the leg warmers and sweat

endocrine, and

band for gardening gloves and a

immune systems.

sunscreen hat!

Slow an gradua If you are new to gardening it is best to work up gradually to your desired level of activity, rather than rush in head first and risk musculoskeletal injuries. As with any activity, it is a good idea to start by warming up – a short 10-minute walk will suffice, or a few stretches. Remember to use your legs, not your back, and bend those knees when lifting wheelbarrows or moving heavy planters. And with every other garden task, do keep good posture and positioning to maintain good back alignment and avoid injury. One way of achieving that is to keep your abdominal muscles firm, which also has the benefit of concentrating the workout effects of gardening. And you can boost the workout experience by conscious breathing techniques – exhale as you lift a heavy load, inhale as you lower it. So now you’re all set. All that’s left is for me to wish you Good Gardening… and Great Health! Fiann Ó Nualláin is an award-winning garden designer, outreach horticulturist and ethnobotanist. He has worked with many health agencies to create gardens for optimum health. You can get


more information from Fiann’s website at

GARDEN TASK: Watering lawn Watering garden Raking Bagging leaves Planting Planting trees Digging Double digging Tilling Shoveling gravel, soil or snow Laying sod Gardening with heavy power tools


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source: Dan Hickey, US National Gardening Association

Gardening: The 'Green Gym' outside your door  
Gardening: The 'Green Gym' outside your door  

Sláinte Magazine's gardening expert Fiann Ó Nualláin explains...