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Gardening can help keep you in shape

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / 2017

    Fran Butera in her Palolo valley home garden in 2017. Going at gardening “full on” is back-breaking work — be sure to stretch first and alternate tasks to reduce the chance of injury.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

QUESTION: I looked at a chart that says gardening is the same as walking 174 steps per minute! I had no idea. If I garden for two hours — and I’m doing that already — am I really doing the equivalent of more than 20,000 steps?

— Patsy M., Shaker Heights, Ohio

ANSWER: Slow down, Patsy. Going at gardening “full on” is back-breaking work.

The 174-steps-per-minute equivalent applies to full-on gardening. If you’re gardening like that for two hours a day, day after day, you’re going to be one sore gardener!

Yes, gardening is great for your health, but to stay in good health and be able to tend to your garden throughout your growing season, you need to pace yourself.

Let us give you a bit of advice that we have picked up from other successful gardeners.

>> Stretch before you hoe!

Gardening demands deep knee bends, extended reaching and lifting (always with your legs). Warm up your muscles first, and you will be less sore afterward.

You should stretch before any exercise, whether it’s gardening or working out at the gym.

>> Alternate tasks so gardening is a well-rounded exercise routine.

Prune, then rake, then dig and plant; repeat. Put yourself on a clock and hydrate every 30 minutes.

After an hour, take a break. That’s the same smart pattern you should follow at the gym.

We’re fans of interval gardening; doing some intense activities, then taking it easier for a while. It’s similar to interval walking (warm up for five minutes; walk at your regular pace for about a minute, followed by a 20-30 second burst of faster walking; repeat this pattern for 20 minutes; cool down for five minutes).

You want to alternate your energy output to between the equivalent of 73 steps per minute (light gardening) and 131 steps per minute (medium gardening).

Save the 174 steps per minute for very occasional demanding tasks. That way you’ll be ready to do it again tomorrow.

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