Tag Archives: health and wellness

Not Always Pink: Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with it’s pink-washed campaigns and numerous pink products, is mainly associated with women, but men can get breast cancer too. While rare, men do develop breast cancer, and the topic is often taboo and rarely discussed. This lack of awareness often means men who develop symptoms may not recognize them or associate them with breast cancer, and they may be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is not as treatable.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., men are born with some breast cells and tissue. And although men don’t develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. It is much less common, with less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in males, and only one in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.

Because breast cancer awareness for males is less, and many men who do develop symptoms delay seeking treatment, men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. Unlike women who are recommended to get annual mammograms and do regular self-breast exams, men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer, so when it is detected, it’s usually at a much more advanced stage. Essentially, most men just don’t think they can get it.

Risk Factors in Men

There are certain risk factors that may make a man more likely to develop breast cancer:

  • Older age. Just as in women, risk increases as a man ages. The average age of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is 68.
  • High estrogen levels. Both normal and abnormal breast cell growth is stimulated by estrogen. Men can have higher levels of the hormone due to a variety of reasons such as medications, being overweight or obese, environmental exposure to estrogen (i.e. pesticides like DDT), high alcohol consumption, and having liver disease.
  • Family history or genetic mutations. Just as the case with women, if there’s a family history of other men in the family having breast cancer, risks are greater. Also, if men carry the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, they are at an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure. Men who have been treated for other cancers with radiation, especially to the chest, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men can be similar to those for women, but men may not associate these changes with cancer. This causes a delay in diagnosis. It’s important that men recognize that any changes to their breasts should always be checked by their physicians.

Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men Include the following:

  • a hard lump in the breast that can be felt
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

With early diagnosis, treatment for breast cancer in men can be very successful. More awareness of breast cancer in men is needed so that men recognize any potential symptoms earlier and seek treatment when cancer is at a much more treatable stage.

Nutrition’s Role in Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk about prevention!

While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, nutrition can play a role in lowering your risk and improving your overall health.

Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Good Nutrition.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your breast cancer risk as well as your risks for other diseases.  According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

Extra weight can increase estrogen in your body, and excess estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.  Additionally, the location of where you carry extra weight also matters. Women who tend to carry extra weight in their midsection may be at a higher risk than women who carry their extra weight around their hips or thighs.

Eat More Veggies, Less Meat.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risks.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals—highly-reactive and unstable molecules that have the potential to harm cells. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E—all of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet high in fiber has also been found to lower cancer risk. And once again, the best sources for this nutrient are unprocessed, plant-based foods. In turn, a high-fiber diet may help you lower your overall caloric intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which, as mentioned above, is crucial in reducing your overall breast cancer risk.

Superfoods!

While no specific food can prevent breast cancer, there are some foods that contain more antioxidants and other anti-cancer properties such as fiber, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should make them a regular part of your diet to help lower your breast cancer risk.

The following are some great examples of  superfoods:

  • Green Tea
  • Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Plums, peaches, avocados
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
  • Vegetables rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apricots, etc.)
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, cold liver oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and nut oils)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, etc.)

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diet is only one part of the picture. Other factors like genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices also play a role in your breast cancer risk. Discuss your individual risks with your doctor and work with him or her in developing a personalized plan to lower your risk.

Move More, Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk.

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re focusing on prevention. And one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing breast cancer is regular exercise. In fact, multiple studies have shown that exercise is the No. 1 lifestyle change you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, and also to reduce your chances of recurrence if you’ve already been diagnosed.

According to the Maurer Foundation, exercise can help reduce your breast cancer risk in several ways:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy weight. When you are at a healthy weight for your body, you naturally have less fat. This is important because fat cells store high levels of estrogen, and higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.  A study found that postmenopausal women who regularly exercised for a year had lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, compared to women who didn’t exercise. Lower levels of estradiol in the body can reduce breast cancer risk.
  • It boosts your immune system.  Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and help your body to better fight off infections and diseases as well as helping to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • It helps with stress relief and mood. People who are active report better moods and less anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can help you better manage the stress in your life, which is important in lowering your risk, as too much stress has been shown to speed up cancer’s progression.

How Much Is Enough?

Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but you don’t need to work out for hours every day to reap the benefits and lower your breast cancer risk. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, such as walking, cycling, or gardening  has been shown to significantly reduce your risk, according to one study.  A  Women’s Health Initiative study concluded that just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking has been shown to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent. If you increase your walking program to 10 hours or more per week, you can lower your breast cancer risk even more.

For those who prefer higher-intensity workouts, the recommendations are 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week. Activities such as running, high-impact aerobics, swimming, or sports such as soccer or basketball are some examples of higher-intensity exercise.

Preventing Cancer Recurrence

If you’ve already had a breast cancer diagnosis and have undergone treatment, exercise can also be extremely beneficial in preventing the cancer from returning.  A 2017 study on lifestyle choices and their impact on the chances of cancer recurring in women who’ve previously had breast cancer found that of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

According to the study, women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. Conversely, women who incorporated at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week (or 75 minutes per week of higher-intensity exercise) significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer returning and of death from breast cancer.

In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence, exercise can improve mood, improve body image, increase energy, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, reduce anxiety and stress, improve physical condition, and improve overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Researchers did note that some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive and may recur despite lifestyle changes.

Exercise – Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right? Is More Really Better?

Some people increase the amount or intensity of the exercises they do whether it is workouts, running, etc., following the old theory that “more is better” and that they will improve their health even more by doing more.

The US Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity recommends that adults get at least 21/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both. It also recommends resistance training or weight training at least twice each week.

What are moderate-intensity activities? They are those that get your heart rate up and make you breathe harder than normal, but during which you can still talk. Some activities in this category are brisk walking, water aerobics, biking (slower than 10 mph), and light gardening. High-intensity activities are activities such as running, jumping rope, swimming laps, biking (faster than 10 mph), and heavy-duty yard work like digging.

Watching television programs such as American Ninja Warrior and seeing the high-intensity challenges the athletes overcome can certainly make you feel inadequate when it comes to exercise and fitness. But working out too hard and for too long can damage your body. It would be nice to be able to look into a glass that projects the future and see how the work-out obsessed fare health-wise after years of this kind of intensity.

Many of us may feel guilty that we don’t exercise more, but there is good news if you are a moderate exerciser. In a study of more than one million women in the UK in 2015, it was found that those women who reported moderate physical activity had significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (which can lead to hemorrhaging, blood clots, and stroke), and embolisms, while those women reporting strenuous daily physical activity had higher risks of developing these same diseases.

In a large Danish study which compared the death rates of runners, it was found that light and moderate runners have lower mortality rates than nonrunners (or sedentary people), whereas strenuous runners have a death rate much like that of the sedentary group. However, other studies found, as would be expected, that those who are sedentary and do not exercise at all are at the greatest risk.

Since these studies were observational only, they can demonstrate only correlation, not causation.

Excessive endurance exercises done daily can harm the body by depressing the immune system and increasing the risk of injuries, as well as increasing inflammatory processes. Taking a day or two off weekly gives the body time to recover from the stress of exercise. Also, some studies of endurance athletes have found coronary changes that may increase the risk of arrhythmias, sudden death, and other problems.

Some medical experts disagree with these studies. Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, (with a team of researchers) tested the link between large amounts of aerobic exercise and lifespan in 122,007 people and found that “Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension.”

A well-lived life is about balance, and we are all happier and more fulfilled when we can achieve balance in all areas of our lives. This is true when we apply it to the time we spend exercising to be healthy. For those who are worried that they must intensify their exercise just to maintain health, the takeaway from this is that there is a great health benefit in exercising, but you don’t have to keep increasing the amount or the intensity of it to stay healthy.

Meal Planning for Easy Eating

Back-to-school is a busy time for any family, and it’s possible for important activities to fall by the wayside in the rush to get everyone ready and out the door on time. One of the first things to fall through the cracks is healthy eating. It’s all too easy to pack instant meals for your child’s lunch as opposed to nutritious meals, and that’s especially true if you’re trying to get everything ready on the fly. Instead of falling into this habit, consider these meal-planning tips to streamline the food preparation process and keep everyone happy and well-fed.

Schedule Your Meals

Create a meal plan for every day of the week. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook something every day;  sometimes it’s just more practical to pick something up. But planning ahead gives you the opportunity to scope out smarter food choices for quick takeout than a fast food restaurant. Additionally, planning your meals out in advance gives you more time to determine when you’ll actually cook them and how to store them effectively for long-lasting freshness.

Prepare the Night Before

Instead of waiting until morning to prepare lunches, have your children help you make and pack their food the night before. This gives you more time to find healthy options while giving your child a sense of responsibility for themselves and the food they eat. This is a great chance to teach them healthy food preparation rules as well as the importance of good nutrition. And the morning will be a much less stressful experience when all you have to do is grab a packed lunch from the refrigerator and send your children on their way.

Plan Breakfast, Too

One of the biggest time-wasters parents encounter each morning is waiting for their children to decide what they want to eat for breakfast. Unless they are old enough to prepare their own food, don’t give your children too many choices. Have one or two options that are easily prepared, and you’ll find the morning moves more smoothly, and your children receive consistently healthy meals before they head off to school.

Keep It Simple

Is it tempting to try your hand at a complicated meal that consists of roughly 20 different ingredients and takes two hours to make? Well, for some us, the answer might very well be “yes.” Chances are good, however, that this isn’t a smart choice. Do you really have time to create a complicated dinner every night after work? Instead of picking complicated dishes that can take a while to prepare, keep it simple during the week. Opt for meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be prepared quickly and offer all the nutrition you need. For school lunches, this can consist of wraps, cheese cubes, fruit, and hummus with pita bread.

Making healthy food doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Streamlined meal preparation tips can help make it an easy and fast process. With these tips in mind, start making delicious food for your family even during the most chaotic of times.

The Benefits of Having Healthy Employees

According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Persistent job stress and inactivity of employees in most workplaces contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Large corporations first offered wellness programs to their employees as a benefit, but as the fitness trend has grown each year, many smaller businesses have implemented programs, devices, and equipment to help employees become healthier.

Adjustable sitting/standing desks, balance balls, desk treadmills, and other devices as well as wellness programs can now be found in many office environments to help promote the health and well-being of employees. Businesses are implementing employee wellness programs because they like the benefits of having healthier employees.

What are the benefits of offering wellness programs, installing fitness centers, or other health-related equipment in an office environment? Many benefits are not measurable, but the following are among the reasons a business might start a wellness program:

  • Lower healthcare costs – Healthcare professionals have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of healthcare spending is for problems of chronic disease associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices—improper nutrition, too little exercise, or smoking, which costs American businesses more than one trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. From 22 studies that examined the costs of wellness programs and healthcare costs, it was found that for every dollar spent on wellness programs $3.27 was saved because of reduced healthcare costs.
  • Fewer lost work days – Healthier workers miss fewer days from work due to illness.
  • Lower stress levels – Neck, back, wrist, and arm fatigue as well as eye strain from sitting and staring at a computer during work hours contributes to fatigue and stress on the job. Exercise during wellness programs helps to dissipate stress, ease muscle strain, and provide relaxing moments—promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Promotes teamwork – Employees participating together in a wellness program are more likely to develop a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork which enhances the company culture and causes the employee to value the company more. Workplace wellness programs show that companies value and appreciate their employees and the employees are more loyal to their company.
  • Improved work performance and longer retention of employees – Since exercise increases one’s ability to focus and provides more energy to perform daily activities, employees are more productive at work. Employees who have a greater sense of well-being and who feel valued by their employers are more likely to stay with their companies.

More recent studies of wellness programs in 2019 cast doubt on the benefits the programs actually produce, but many factors go into how wellness programs are initiated and supported by the businesses and corporations that started them.

There have been many studies which have examined the results and benefits of wellness programs. One study that looked at nearly 200,000 wellness program participants showed that 5 out of 7 health risks improved after one year.

One thing seems certain: Companies will end programs from which they derive no benefit for their employees or their “bottom line.” The benefits of a workplace wellness program outweigh the costs.

Fish and Seafood: Risk or Myth

Although most people enjoy eating seafood, some will only eat certain  types of seafood while others avoid eating it altogether for fear that it is harmful or unsafe. That may be because of some myths about it that have persisted.

Let’s examine several sayings to discover whether they are myths or if we are taking a risk to ignore them.

  • Seafood is full of mercury, and eating it will harm your body; it should be avoided—especially by pregnant women and young children.

Mercury is a mineral which occurs naturally in our environment. It can be turned into the poisonous compound, methylmercury, by bacteria and natural processes and can accumulate in streams and oceans where it enters the food chain as each fish absorbs the mercury of smaller fish it eats. That is the reason that larger fish contain larger amounts of mercury than smaller ones. Almost all fish contain some amounts of mercury.

Mercury toxicity can disrupt brain function and harm the nervous system. It can pass through the placenta of a pregnant woman and accumulate in the blood and tissues of the developing fetus and can also pass through a mother’s breast milk. So, pregnant women should eat only low-mercury fish (sardines, trout, salmon, etc.) and  limit it to 12 oz. per week. They need to avoid eating raw or uncooked fish since it may contain microorganisms that can harm the developing fetus. Click here to learn more.

Fish and seafood are loaded with important nutrients such as iodine and vitamin D that many people are deficient in, as well as omega-3 fatty acids which are crucial for optimal body and brain function and are strongly linked to a reduced risk for many diseases.

The Food and Drug Administration tests for mercury and the Environmental Protection Agency determines safe mercury levels for women of childbearing age. And most states issue advisories to warn people when they are aware of methylmercury contamination stating the types, size, and amounts of fish that are of concern.

Conclusion: It is safe to eat fish and seafood as long as you choose those that are low in mercury and observe guidelines for the amount you should consume per week.

  • You should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter “R”.

A widely known myth about oysters is that you should only eat them in months that contain the letter “R” like September and October, etc., but not June, July, and August. This used to be true because the warm months were when oysters spawned and not eating them gave them time to reproduce. Spawning oysters do not taste good and warmer waters in the “R-less” months also increased the prevalence of certain bacteria in raw oysters that made people sick.

Raw oysters could make you sick, but strict government regulations lower that risk. Making sure oysters are properly cooked will eliminate that danger.

NOAA Fisheries estimates that the US imports more than 80% of the seafood we eat with approximately half of that produced from aquaculture (or farmed). Currently, there are at least six federal agencies that regulate different aspects of the U.S. Aquaculture industry. These regulations have promoted greater confidence in farmed seafood, and today, people eat oysters year-round.

Conclusion: It is most likely safe to eat oysters year-round because of strict government regulations that govern the seafood industry.

  • Are Oysters an aphrodisiac?

This myth may have started with Casanova, a famous womanizer from the 18th century who was said to have eaten 60 of the mollusks each day to power his amorous adventures.

In 2005, George Fisher, a chemistry professor at Miami’s Barry University, found that mussels contained the amino acid, D-Aspartic acid, which had been found to increase the level of sex hormones in lab rats. Although the study did not include oysters, Fisher was quoted in a number of different publications speculating that the amino acid might contribute to an aphrodisiac effect.

Oysters are a good source of zinc (a zinc deficiency can have a detrimental effect on the reproductive system) which is known to help boost testosterone levels.

But in an article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, she states “No food has been scientifically proven to stimulate the human sex organs. But foods and the act of eating can suggest sex to the mind, which in turn can help stimulate desire in the body.”

Conclusion: No real aphrodisiac effect has been proven, but if the act of eating oysters creates a sensual pleasure, why not!

Airport Gyms and Fitness Vacations – Exercise On the Go Part 2!

Being away from home or traveling is not a reason to lose the gains you have made by starting an exercise/fitness routine. Here are more ways to continue to maintain your exercise goals.

At Airport Terminals

If you have a long layover at an airport, you can walk laps around the inside of the terminal (wear or pack walking shoes in your carry-on luggage). You can leave your luggage at the lost luggage counter (the most common place to leave it since they have the necessary storage space there), and the attendants will keep an eye on it for a daily fee. Many airports also have coin-operated luggage lockers.

If you are one of those people who aren’t motivated to exercise when traveling unless it is in a gym-type setting around others who are working out, you will find more options than you might expect. Fitness/workout centers are not as lucrative for airports as restaurants and stores, but that may be changing. These pioneers in US airport gyms are among the best available to work out while you wait for your flight:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – Features free 24-hour Yoga studio with free use of yoga mats and a looping DVD with instruction as well as a LiveWell Walking Path (measuring seven-tenths of a mile) and includes two 55-foot high staircases for an extra cardio challenge. (In Terminal D)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport – The Westin WORKOUT Fitness studio in the Westin Hotel is connected to the World Gateway Terminal in the Delta hub. Non-hotel guests can use the gym for a modest fee and rent shoes, t-shirts, and shorts.
  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport – Roam Fitness in the terminal (after security, between concourses D and E) – You can rent workout clothes and shoes, and you can shower after your workout. They have healthy meals and recovery drinks available as well.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – They have a 1.4 mile walking path located at the Lindbergh Terminal (starting at the intersection of the C and D concourses.
  • San Francisco International Airport – Yoga room – This self-led practice studio is open 24 hours at no charge. Yoga mats are also available. (Located just past security in Terminal 2)

These gyms offer day passes to use their facilities at reasonable prices.

Leave Nothing to Chance

You can be sure to maintain your fitness routine if your travel vacation is paired with planned fitness activities. Fitness-themed vacations have grown in popularity in the last ten years. These are some of the travel sites offering fitness activities plus active tourist adventures.

  • Active Escapes – Offers fitness retreats to destinations such as Bali, Barbados, South Africa, Australia, Greece, and other exotic destinations. Professional trainers provide daily training sessions and activities designed for the location. All costs included in the trip price.
  • Fit and Fly Girl (for women) – Hosts fitness, wellness, and cultural retreats for women in locations around the world. Provides accommodations, fitness classes, healthy and delicious food, wellness activities, spa treatments, cultural excursions, entertainment, and time to care for oneself while creating new friendships with other women.
  • Jungle Bay Dominica Fitness Boot Camp – Enjoy fitness activities while also exploring the beaches and jungles of Dominica. Instructor-led fitness regimes, hikes, and yoga sessions as well as snorkeling, kayaking, cooking classes, etc.
  • Big Sky Yoga Retreats – In Montana where you will have yoga sessions, Nordic ski lessons, meditation, and wildlife watching. In winter, you can also enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides while you’re having your dinner!
  • Backroads – Active vacations with biking, hiking, multi-adventure tours. Trips are organized based on different levels and abilities, catering to singles, families, or private groups.

 

 

Staying Fit While Traveling – Exercise On the Go Part 1

Many things happen during the summer months that break or interfere with our usual routines: vacations, trips, weddings in different cities or locations, visiting relatives and friends, and unexpected events that require us to leave home. These things may be a welcome change, but all too often, they are used as an excuse to stop the diet and/or exercise routine we have so faithfully been following.

No Excuses 

Skip the excuses and admit that you can exercise and keep up your level of fitness with little or no equipment other than your own body. Some of the most effective workout exercises can be done using only your own body weight. You just need to choose exercises that use as many muscle groups at once as possible and expend the greatest amount of energy (rather than exercising one muscle at a time) as this takes less time overall and achieves maximum results. Some of those exercises are listed below, and they can be done in a hotel room or just about anywhere within a small amount of space:

Have just six minutes to get in your on-the-go exercise? Here is a six-minute, high intensity interval training(HIIT), full-body workout that seems guaranteed to keep your fitness level up.

As long as you have your cell phone with you, you have an unlimited source of free apps and YouTube exercise videos to choose from.

Plan Ahead

Prior to traveling to your destination, whether on business or for pleasure, check out scenic attractions in the area and see if there are walking tours that will take you by these attractions, or use a map to plan your own walking tour. It won’t feel like exercise because you are exploring a new location. Some cities have bike-share programs, so you could rent a bike for an hour or so and exercise while you explore a park or other scenic part of town.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article where we’ll talk about which airports have gyms in them and a few of our favorite fitness vacations!

 

 

 

Gardeners Rejoice!

How Gardening is Good For You

This is the time of year when yards come alive and we gardeners once again plan our gardens and begin selecting the beautiful flowers and vegetables that will fill our outdoor spaces. But the rewards we reap are not only colorful yards and tasty food that we have grown ourselves. Gardening is also wonderful for your health. It’s a great way to get that vitamin D which our bodies create when we spend time in the sun. By gardening, you can boost your endurance and strength, as well as flexibility.

benefits of gardening

Another terrific aspect of gardening is that you can burn a lot of calories as you are preparing the soil, tilling and hoeing, digging and planting, and weeding and pruning. These activities are a great way to work some good cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine.

Jeff Restuccio who wrote Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way says it’s a good idea to alternate the more physically challenging gardening activities with the lighter work for a more structured exercise workout. He suggests, for example, raking for a while, then digging holes, then pruning.

As you do your “gardening exercise,” concentrate on deep breathing, and for a real boost in calorie burning, exaggerate your movements to increase the range of motion. For example, while raking or digging, stretch further than you usually would. This can increase your calorie burning from 100-200 per hour up to 500 per hour according to Restuccio. The actual number of calories burned varies with age, weight, and how much muscle you have. The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn. The younger you are, the more calories you’ll burn. Also, muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you have a more muscular build, you will also burn more calories.

In addition, try switching back and forth between hands when raking. Rake with your right hand 15 times, then do 15 times with your left hand. This will ensure both sides of your body are getting an equal work out.

For people who don’t consider gardening a real workout, Restuccio says, “If you think double digging (going down a foot, turning the soil over, then down another foot, bringing that soil to the top) isn’t exercise, you haven’t tried it.”

One of the best things about working in the garden, aside from the actual harvest, is that you can do it with the whole family. Get the kids and the grandparents out in the garden and let everyone participate. Make it a bonding activity that all can share, and in the process, everyone can get healthier too!

Some gardening safety tips:

  • Remember to stretch before you begin; gardening is exercise, and you can just as easily injure a muscle gardening as you can working out in the gym.
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated and use sunscreen.
  • To avoid hurting your back or knees, use a cushion when working close to the ground.
  • Instead of sitting on your heels, try to keep your back straight and be sure to stand and stretch every 10 minutes or so.
  • When choosing your shovel or spade, look for one that is lightweight and has a long handle.
  • Don’t overload your shovel when digging, and remember to bend at the knee, stepping forward when you raise and dump each shovel full of dirt.
  • While bending to pick up tools or heavy bags, bend at the knees and hips to avoid back strain.