"It makes you feel good to be out in the air," she says.
Gardening, like other forms of exercise, is easier if done in small chunks of time, Tischer says.
Map out the different parts of your garden or yard, making each a manageable size that you can work on in a few minutes, says Tischer, a Hagerstown resident.
"Even 20 minutes before sunset is better than nothing," Tischer says.
Because the effects of exercise are cumulative, every bit helps.
"Every time I go out, I pull out a weed," Cronk says.
Gardeners can reap the most benefits when they also do aerobic activities such as walking, running or biking, says Jennifer Huber, a recreational therapist at Washington County Hospital.
Cronk swims several times a week, and Tischer tries to go for a walk every other day.
If you're out of shape, you should check with your physician before starting any exercise program, Huber says.
In gardening, as in other forms of exercise, it's a good idea to warm up first, she says.
It's tempting to spend a whole day on a marathon weeding session, but you could end up paying for it later.
Cronk, who says she has back problems, advises others to take it easy.
"If you've got a bad back, make it 45 minutes maximum," Cronk says. "Your head likes doing it, but you know the next day your back will be in trouble."
Gardening also is good exercise for people with disabilities, Huber says. There are many devices to make gardening easier, including taller planting pots and tools with larger handles for those whose fine motor skills are limited.
Cronk and Tischer both say weeding is a good way to relieve stress.
Think of each weed as something that bothers you, Tischer says.
"It's like taking something disagreeable from your life and getting rid of it," Tischer says.
Here are some tips for safe gardening:
- Take frequent rest periods, especially in hot weather.
- Drink plenty of water, as gardeners can become dehydrated easily.
- Wear protective clothing when gardening, including comfortable shoes with good support. A hat can help keep the sun off your face. Gloves also are a good form of protection, especially for older gardeners, as the skin gets thinner with age.
- Avoid insects such as bees, ticks and mosquitoes.
- Use a foam pad or piece of carpet when kneeling, and let your garden tools do the work for you.
- Instead of moving one large load, break it into several smaller ones. You'll get more exercise from moving the extra loads.
- Using correct posture can help reduce the risk of injury.
Bend your knees when picking up heavy bags of mulch or fertilizer.
Remember to lift with your knees, not your back.
- Teri Johnson