Don't dig a hole for yourself: get gardening

Improve your health and strength with these gardening exercises

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REAP WHAT YOU SOW: Gardening has many benefits apart from beautifying your home.

REAP WHAT YOU SOW: Gardening has many benefits apart from beautifying your home.

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Ditch the dumbbells and use a watering can as a weights: It's time to take your gardening to the next level.

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DITCH the running machine for the mower, swap weights for the watering can; gardening isn't just good for your plants - it's beaut for your body.

More than 40 per cent baby of boomers regularly garden for fitness, according to new research commissioned by Fitness Australia, the nation's peak fitness industry body.

Green-thumbed baby boomers are prioritising their health, with 80 per cent agreeing that keeping active is central to reducing the likelihood of health problems.

Fitness Australia spokesperson and registered trainer Chantal Brodrick said gardening has numerous benefits in addition to physical health.

"Our research also found that baby boomers who regularly garden are more likely to be satisfied with their friendships and partners than non-gardeners," Ms Brodrick said.

"So there is a clear social benefit to gardening as well. Not to mention it can also be a great way to relieve stress and improve mental health."

Victorian baby boomers are leading the way with half gardening regularly, followed by WA, NSW and the ACT.

Here are some of Ms Brodrick's garden-friendly exercises to increase your muscle strength:

Watery weights: Forget dumbbells. Just turn your hose off and use a watering can as a weight to increase your muscle strength. The bonus is that it will get lighter the more time you spend watering your garden.

Take it to the next level: Fill up two watering cans, hold them on either side of your body and do some farmers walks (hold the watering cans, one on each side of your body) up and down your yard. Pace out 10 steps, then turn around and repeat.

Be sure to bend your knees and put the watering cans down if you need to rest between laps. Try to build up to five laps carrying the weights.

Dig it up: Half an hour of digging can burn up the equivalent of 628 kilojoules. No plans to dig up the garden this weekend? Go weeding instead: it's great for your arm strength

Take it to the next level: Hold your spade vertically in the ground in front of you, holding the handle for balance, and squat slowly 10 times. Repeat three times.

Or hold onto a solid object like your garden shed to help you balance. Or simply use a smaller bucket when weeding, meaning you'll make more frequent trips to the green bin and burn more energy at the same time.

Mow your lawn: This has some great health benefits.

Take it to the next level: Add some variety to your routine! Before you start the mower, stand next to it holding onto the handle, and do 10 single knee lifts on your right leg, then repeat on your left. Next, turn and face the mower. Holding the handle with both hands for balance, do 10 heel rises (so you are on your toes) slowly and then lower back down. Repeat these two exercises twice.

If you have energy left over, do the same at the end of your lawn mowing.

Make the most of the space you've got: just because you don't have a huge garden doesn't mean you can't get your green thumb exercises on. Small pot plants make great weights for a mini-workout. Or find your local community garden to boost your activity and social life all at once.

Take it to the next level: Set yourself a 20-minute gardening goal, even if it means moving the same pot twice! Think of it ast redecorating for your garden, and remember, if you don't have many pots to move, then go back to exercise one and grab your watering can for some weighted activity.

To find the right activity, trainer or gym for you, visit fitnessaustralia.com.au

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