Here's some great news for gardeners: If you are working in the garden more than once a week, chances are you are fighting osteoporosis and don't even know it. Because new studies show that gardening is better for you than you thought.
Women over 50 who garden at least once a week have a higher bone density reading (the reading that is used to diagnose osteoporosis) than women who take part in almost any other form of exercise, according to a new study by the University of Arkansas. Outside of weight training, yard work and gardening beat out other weight-bearing exercise such as jogging, swimming, walking and aerobics.
It makes sense, because digging holes, pulling weeds and carrying sacks of dirt and fertilizer provide great opportunities to build muscle and bone. But another important reason gardening is so effective at preventing osteoporosis is that gardeners garden as a labor of love -- something you just can't say about most aerobicizers. And of course, you're going to do something that you love much more frequently than you're going to do something that you ought to do.
If you're not already getting dirty in the garden, here are some ways to get ready for the spring and build up your bones at the same time.
- Prepare your soil. Good soil is the key to a great garden. Not only does prepping your soil help your plants, but just think about the weight lifting involved: You've got three heavy bags of potting soil, two bags of organic matter and one huge bag of dried manure. Lifting those bags and then dumping them into a wheelbarrow is great arm exercise.
- Divide perennials. Digging and pulling are some of the best benefits of gardening. You not only have to dig deeply when dividing perennials (using arm and leg muscles), but separating and replanting are also invigorating tasks.
- Plant fall perennials. Weeding, planting and getting the ground ready for new specimens are some of the best exercises you can do in the garden. Plus, your garden will look beautiful with some new colorful plants.
- Prune roses shrubs and trees. Cut, cut. Snip, snip. If you're cutting back bushes and trees this season, be prepared to build some muscles. Just holding heavy pruning shears is exercise!
- Plant a dogwood tree. Think back to spring when you saw your first blossom of the season. It was probably the fresh bright smile of the dogwood. Planting one of these magical trees will also give you a full body work out.
- Plant bulbs. Before you work up a sweat planting spring blooming bulbs -- you need to plan your bulb garden. Our crash course in bulb garden design will help you mix it up with bold patterns and create a garden with constant blooms.
- Invigorate body and soul. Finally, gardening is as soothing to the soul as it is challenging to the body. Find out more about how to make gardening a spiritual exercise.
To find out more about the physical effects of gardening, head over to the iVillage Diet & Fitness channel.