What to do? You want to do a work out but the garden has suddenly gone into overdrive. There are weeds growing in every border, the hedge has taken over half of the neighbour’s driveway and the lawn looks more like a wild meadow.
The answer is combine the two.
Researchers at Coventry University <http://www.coventry.ac.uk/primary-news/unis-hollywood-tech-to-give-gardeners-health-tips-at-chelsea-show/> have developed a hi-tech suit, complete with all-over body sensors, to show which muscles and joints are at work as we garden. The suits go to prove that as a means of functional fitness, gardening is up there as a great way to work out.
Gardening makes your body do all sorts of activities that you would do in the gym - bending, lifting, squatting, digging, raking. And while gardening is unlikely to give you the cardiovascular workout that a six-mile run or a 25 mile cycle ride will do, it is a good activity to do to break up the routine – variety is key to good all-round health.
Clyde Williams is professor of sports science at Loughborough University and he says that, according to research, three hours of heavy gardening, including digging and lifting, will burn 800-1,000 calories. Even pottering around the garden will give you the same amount of exercise as a Pilates session, and much of the movement involved in gardening will improve your flexibility.
So here are some gardening tasks and the muscles they use:
Digging - great for all round muscle work
Muscles used: quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles, biceps, triceps, upper back and shoulders, abdominals and obliques.
Chopping - great for upper body strength
Muscles used: biceps, triceps, shoulders, upper back.
Hoeing and raking
Muscles used: forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulder and upper back, abdominals and obliques.
Mowing the lawn
Muscles used: if you use a manual lawn mower, it is a tough workout for the major muscles in the legs and upper body, especially arms and upper back. Electric or petrol mowers are less demanding.
Weeding and planting
Muscles used: back, shoulder and arm muscles. Also the bottom and thigh muscles as you bend down into a squatting position and stand up.
Non-stop gardening calls on all the major muscles in the back, legs and abdominal area and will burn about 3.2 calories per pound of your body weight every hour - that's 450 calories for someone weighing 10 stone. Lifting bags of grass cuttings or compost can produce benefits akin to weight training.
"Gardening is to the unfit what a four-mile run is to people who exercise a lot," says Louise Sutton, a lecturer in sport and exercise science at Leeds Metropolitan University.
However, people tend to do little to prepare themselves for a gardening workout and risk injury as a result. Figures from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) reveal that about a quarter of a million people require hospital treatment every year for injuries sustained while gardening.
"People need to be aware that gardening can be tough physical work," says Helen Welch, a spinal clinical specialist for the CSP. She advises a gentle warm-up of walking for five minutes before you start followed by stretches prior to each activity.
Gardening injuries aside, if further proof is needed as to the benefits of gardening, in a three-year study conducted with the therapeutic horticultural society Thrive, scientists found that gardening had a positive effect on the physical and emotional health of people with depression or other health problems. Not only did regular gardeners become fitter, says Dr Jo Aldridge, who led the research, but they also had more time for self-reflection and relaxation, thereby boosting their mood.