Gardening for Weight Loss and Fitness

Have you ever wished you could combine your love of food with fresh air and a healthier body? You can! It's called gardening, and people have been doing it for ages. While it's true that spreading some topsoil and poking a few seeds into it won't burn a lot of calories, I'll show you my method that not only melts the fat away, but builds strong muscles and bones, refreshes your mind, and gives you plenty of time to fantasize about all of the yummy food that your new garden will produce. You'll need some comfy, sturdy shoes or boots and a pair of good-fitting gardening gloves. My favorite gloves have rubber palms and breathable nylon backs. When you're working in your new garden, be sure to use good body form and bend with your knees, not your back. Don't lift anything that's too heavy for you, and keep plenty of fresh drinking water handy. If you have children, let them help you. You'll foster a love of the outdoors in them, plus they are more likely to eat veggies if they've helped grow them. Okay, let's get started!

1. Select your garden space. You'll need to make sure that the area receives plenty of full sun spring through fall to make the most of your gardening efforts and to ensure a bountiful harvest.

2. If you have pets, livestock, or wild critters such as bunnies or deer, you'll need to put an appropriate fence around your garden area. It can be as lightweight as poultry netting, or you might want something sturdier, prettier, and longer-lasting. Just be sure that it doesn't create too much shade on your garden plot, otherwise your veggies won't grow. Metal T-posts are a snap to sink if you use a fence-post driving tool. The tool is heavy enough to provide a serious upper body workout, and it's great for relieving frustration too. If you choose wooden fence posts you'll need a post-hole digger, which also gives a great workout, especially to your deltoids and pectorals.

3. Turning your "dirt" into "soil" is the best part of your gardening workout. I like to spend one to two hours per day for as many days as it takes to accomplish this important task. If your new garden plot was formerly lawn or a weed patch, you'll need to kill the existing vegetation. And, no, not with chemicals. Think organic! Get your shovel out, and turn your soil over one scoop at a time. Work in a straight line so that you can see all that you've accomplished. It'll keep you motivated to finish the job. Take a good look at your dirt. Is it heavy with clay? You'll need to amend it with compost or manure to attract earthworms and some sand to improve drainage. Or maybe you live in a sandy area. In that case, add compost or manure and some heavy topsoil. When you're satisfied with your soil's composition, you'll be ready to start planting.

4. Some veggies are easiest to plant with seeds, and others produce best if you plant young plants purchased from your local nursery. It's up to you, but either way you can use the planting process to get a good lower-body workout. Starting at one end of a row, do a deep-knee bend or a squat, plant the seed or young plant, and slowly rise. Move forward and repeat until the entire row is planted. Take breaks and stretch as needed. Don't forget to drink plenty of water! If you plant just two rows per day, you can stretch this part of your gardening workout into a week or two of exercise. By the time you get everything planted, you'll have weeds to pull!

5. Keep on top of your weed crop by pulling them from at least one row per day. Use the same deep-knee bend exercise that you used when you were planting your garden. With plenty of water and sunshine, you should have delicious, healthy vegetables to harvest and share with your friends and family.

Most important of all, have fun and enjoy the fresh air. When your garden is complete, you'll not only have a healthier body, a clearer mind, and a fuller produce bin, you'll have a beautiful accomplishment to be proud of. Happy gardening!

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