Gardening and Yardwork for Better Health and Fitness

Gardening has long been one of the fastest growing hobbies for the past few years.  Other than adding beauty and value to your home as well as providing a great creative outlet, there are some really great fitness and health reasons to get out and dig in the dirt.

It is estimated that one hour of gardening burns 300 calories. More if you are really digging or doing major landscaping improvements such as shoveling gravel or laying patio stones. As you work in your garden, you are exercising all major muscle groups such as your legs, back, abdominals, arms and especially your behind!

All that digging and raking builds bone density, as it is an effective form of weight bearing exercise.

Gardening helps lower blood pressure as you get out and leave your worries behind while you smell the dirt and fresh air. Stress melts away as you also exercise your brain and creative side designing and planning your garden layout.  A lasting sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is the result of creating and maintaining your garden space

Another benefit of gardening as a form of exercise is that it doesn’t require a gym membership or expensive equipment.  A decent shovel, yard rake, and weeding tools are pretty much all you need.

The health benefits associated with vegetable gardening are due to the ability to raise your own organic food.  Sharing the bounty of your veggie garden with neighbors and co-workers contributes to an important sense of community.

Other than impaling yourself with a sharp garden tool, the only “risks” associated with gardening are when there has not been adequate enough warm up and stretching before starting.  Sometimes when people get out in the garden after a long winter, they attack the tasks with a bit too much gusto and pay for it the next day.

Take care to avoid this and make sure to warm up and stretch properly before a day in the garden.  Also keep in mind posture and proper lifting so that your gardening session doesn’t leave you with low back issues and keep you out of the game. Check out this article for tips on warming up before and also safe movement during gardening to protect your back and stay injury free.  Let us know how your garden is coming along this spring and any helpful stretches you do before you head out to the garden.

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The Three Best forms of Exercise for 50-Plus

Has a recent visit to the doctor left you with strict instructions to start exercising after a few too many years of not doing so? If you are over 50 and beginning to experience some of the normal signs of a–(we don’t say the “a” word, here), then starting a whole new exercise regime can not only seem a bit daunting, but confusing in regards to what to try and how to start.

We hesitated coming up with a list because we don’t want to send the message that there is anything you cannot do. However, reality is that some of us have joint issues, or old college injuries, or other health issues that may limit your options. After getting your Dr.’s ok, don’t stress about finding that “perfect” form of exercise for you. Half the fun is in the journey! This is a great opportunity for you to try out some activities you have wondered about or even told yourself you would never do. Here are some of the top ways to exercise for 50-plus individuals:

  • Pilates is a fabulous workout that has the lower impact that other body-weight exercises do. Pilates will challenge you as you build your core- the deeper abdominal muscles that also support the spine. As a result, back issues, posture, flexibility, and stability are all improved with Pilates. For those who have not exercised in some time, Pilates will help you to gain an incredible amount of flexibility. For all of us, bone density is increased in the spine and hip as a result of the standing leg exercises.
  • Aerobic activity is needed for a balanced workout routine. Fortunately, there are many options to challenge yourself aerobically such as power walking, light jogging, hiking, swimming, and cycling. If it has been a while, start with brisk walking for 5 minutes a few days a week. As you feel your heart rate responding, work up to 30 minutes of non-stop aerobic activity. One way to increase your aerobic capacity quickly is with interval training. Make sure you have your Dr’s ok for this.
  • Weight training is very important as we age. Bone loss is happening daily and weight training is one of the best ways to not only slow down that loss, but it can actually build bone density. Make sure to work with a personal trainer who is educated in training people 50+ and understands the various needs and potential modifications And women, don’t forget to get in on the action and learn weight training techniques for you! It is not just a guy’s thing!

There are countless other options out there for you to try. Join a local hiking group, cycle club, gym or YMCA to connect up with like-minded people. Whatever you choose, make sure to keep it fun and keep trying new options. Remember, the sky is the limit…hey!  How about skydiving, or paragliding, or…

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Vacation Fitness: Maintain Your Fitness Regimen on the Vacay!

You have been working hard during your workouts, making good choices with nutrition and work-life balance, and you have seen improvements in your health over the last year. But then vacation and summer months arrive… with that comes schedule changes, opportunities to eat out, celebrations and gatherings. All of that is good and important, but can oftentimes make it difficult to keep up your normal healthy routine. It takes some advance planning and determination to succeed, but you CAN go on vacay and keep your commitment to fitness alive with a vacation fitness regimen.

First of all, don’t just give up and tell yourself you will pick things up once vacation is over. The summer months can be a series of mini-vacations, and that can mean a couple of months of no workouts if you just throw in the towel. You have worked so hard to get to where you are and backward slides can be discouraging. Be realistic and accept that it may be difficult to maintain your regular routine; but promise yourself to allow for an “adjusted program”. As with most things worthwhile, it is a mindset.

Tour vacations can mean schedules from morning to evening, but there are ways to sneak in more activities than you think. Here are some tips to make your vacation successful from a fitness point of view, as well as the sight-seeing side of things:

  • Do some checking around online before leaving home. You may be surprised to find a wide variety of workout facilities beyond just the hotel’s bare bones treadmill. Many fitness clubs, studios, and even personal trainers offer special arrangements for out of town travelers. Local parks have jogging trails and some lakeside facilities offer stand up paddle board yoga!
  • Your home gym may have sister gyms in other cities and for a nominal fee, you can take advantage of the services.
  • Photo credit Flickr user mikebaird

    Photo credit Flickr user mikebaird

    Think like an adventurer! Make sure one or more days of your vacay include a bike, kayak, scuba, or surfboard rental. Consider trying a totally new physical sport or experience since livin’ it up is what vacation is all about.

  • Pack along resistance bands in your suitcase. You can get an amazing full body workout with these things! Add a killer ab session, a jump rope and you are covered!
  • Don’t forget your workout togs and shoe options. This way you have removed any reasons to avoid workouts.
  • Make a diversion! As you are seeing the sights, take the long way around, or get off the tour bus completely and do it on foot. Find the closest hills or stair climb and make that a part of your route.
  • Paddle in the pond! Most hotels have at least a small pool. Even if you are not on a beach vacation, take along your suit and get some laps in or a full body water workout.
  • YouTube-it! The sky is the limit with just about every type of workout video for you to follow along with in your hotel room.
  • Ditch the rollers. Roller suitcases, that is. Pack all your essentials in two cases and carry balanced weight to and from your flight, hotel room, etc. This makes for a great upper body workout in the same time you would spend in transit, anyway!
  • Pedometer-it! Get a pedometer and/or fitness tracker to keep yourself aware of steps and activity level. This awareness will likely cause you to choose more active options and make better meal choices.
  • It’s all in the family. If your vacation involves visiting family and friends, instead of always gathering over food and drink, make walking dates to catch up and get some movement at the same time. Even casual hikes at nearby scenic destinations will make your visit that much more treasured.

The options are endless and the change of pace may just make you adopt some of these as a part of your fitness plan even once you return from vacation-land. It’s not an obligation, but an opportunity for adventure!

Stay Hydrated for Your Workouts as the Weather Heats Up

Warmer weather is upon us, as well and fun opportunities for taking our workouts outside. Along with higher temperatures is an increased risk of dehydration. We all know that we should stay hydrated, but opinions on when, what, and how to do that can vary.

Photo credit: Pixabay user Hans.

Photo credit: Pixabay user Hans.

Any sustained exercise results in greater fluid loss as we sweat more.  Exercise in the heat increases this dramatically.  As we sweat, we lose important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride. Loss of fluids and these electrolytes can cause a drop in blood glucose as well as muscle glycogen.  When that happens, not only is performance reduced, but as our bodies become dehydrated, the risk of muscle cramps, fatigue, electrolyte deficits, and even hypernatremia (elevated sodium levels in the blood) can be life threatening.

Perhaps the most important time to consume fluids is two hours prior to a workout.  When you begin your workout well hydrated, you reduce the risk of getting dehydrated so quickly.  Consume 20 fl. oz. of liquids 2 hours prior to starting any strenuous exercise.

During exercise, if your body loses 1% of body weight in fluids, cardiovascular strain occurs and muscle performance is affected. Consuming fluids frequently (3-8 fl oz. every 15 minutes) will prevent dehydration.  Drinking water is sufficient if you are exercising less than an hour, but additional carbohydrates and electrolytes must be consumed to help maintain the proper levels of blood glucose when pushing yourself over an hour of strenuous exercise.  Sports drinks are not the only way to go; Coconut water, Green tea, low fat Chocolate milk, fruit juices, small portions of bananas or dried fruits and nuts can all help replenish your system.

If you do go for sports drinks read your labels carefully. There is not enough space in this post to look detail at sports drinks options, so suffice it to say that there is a lot of junk packaged as sport/energy drinks and we encourage you to read labels and educate yourself. This article may help and begins to explore  healthy options to replenish your body’s needs during and after a workout.

Until then, happy workouts and stay hydrated!