One of Editor Courtney’s favorite things in the world is exercising. One of Editor Joan’s favorite things to do is garden. Luckily, they can both celebrate June 6, which is National Gardening Exercise Day!
According to National Today, “The history of gardening is so old and intertwined with agriculture that it can be challenging to tell where farming ends and gardening begins. However, it’s clear that the first enclosures in forests and wild spaces were made all the way back in 10,000 BCE – humans used these enclosures as a kind of primitive landscaping, as well as to produce food. It’s probable that the first real farms and gardens were established in Mesopotamia.
“Gardening flourished all over the world – and almost at the same time! While evidence of ancient rice cultivation was found in China in 7000 BCE, corn was found in Central America, and so on. All over the world, different flowers, produce and herbs sprung up and were domesticated, then shared. By 1100 BCE, gardens had moved beyond agriculture, cropping up in front of temples and around public buildings.
“Between 100 BCE and 100 CE, books on horticulture, agriculture and botany started to take off. They depicted everything from rural life and herbal medicines to waterworks that were placed in gardens. Letters described beautiful villa gardens teeming with carefully domesticated and cultivated plants. ‘Scholar gardens’ and palace gardens reflected culture and government as civilizations flourished. The study of botany emerged in the 1600s, followed by botanical gardens.
“In the past century, gardening has undergone more trends than we can count. The 1910s were defined by World War I victory gardens and influenced by art nouveau, while the 1920s and 1930s were preoccupied with the arrival of potted plants on the market. The idea of the classic American backyard featuring a modest garden and manicured suburban lawn arrived in the 1950s.
“Since the environmental awakening of the 1960s, much of gardening has been dominated by principles of sustainability and environmentalism. Many gardeners dream of patches full of low-maintenance, native plants, with house plants like succulents sunning themselves indoors. Though gardens have definitely changed throughout the centuries, it’s clear people have always loved their plants!”
So what exercises should you undertake in the garden today? All your normal ones! Just make sure you’re doing them safely so you don’t hurt yourself.
- Squats – Whether you’re just getting low to pick something up or staying low to do some weeding, a proper squat is important for your whole body. While we tend to stay balanced on the balls of our feet, try to keep your heels down. It lends to better balance. Ideally, your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. Try to keep your chest and shoulders up – hunching is not a good look for anyone, not even Quasimodo.
- Deadlifts – This motion is used when picking up something heavy right in front of you. You don’t necessarily have to squat down to pick the object up, but it is critical to use your legs to help you, rather than just your back. Try to keep the object (say, a bag of mulch) as close to your shins as you can. Bend over at the waist, obtain a firm grip, bend your knees slightly, and then pull the bag upwards carefully, keeping it close to your body. If you do this right, you’ll definitely feel it in your glutes the next day.
- Upper body work – Between breaking up sod, hoeing rows, pulling weeds and harvesting goodies, your arms, chest and back get a lot of work in the garden. Again, just make sure you’re using proper form when doing these things, and you’ll see both improvement in your garden and your body. When using a hoe, or rake, or any tool in which you’re pulling toward you, try to engage both sides of your body when performing the motion. Hoeing puts more strain on one arm and hand. Although it may feel awkward at first, switching sides every few minutes when you rake and hoe will help prevent favoring one side of your body.
- Stretch! – This may seem like a given, but any time you do physical activity, you should warm up first. (Editor Courtney used to stretch before bowling league events, and was teased for it, because how hard is bowling? Halfway through the season, she was warming up with half the league.) Just because something is a familiar motion to your mind doesn’t mean your body is always ready and willing to do it.
And, although it’s not an exercise, always remember to hydrate. You water your garden – make sure you water yourself too.