May 28, 2023


May 28, 2023

by Bob Niklewicz PT MG

Jeannette E. Warnert
One of the great pleasures of working in a garden is the reward and satisfaction of walking among your plants and seeing the unique way your artistic talents are displayed. It's a gift to yourself as well as to all those that take the time to appreciate them. Walking is a wonderful and extremely important way to stay healthy. Staying healthy is one of bonuses you get after working and using your muscles in your garden. As sore as the muscles may become, the benefits are worth it.

Question 1: How many muscles are there in the Human Body? If you have read one of my previous articles, you would know you have about 600 muscles.

Question 2: How many muscles pump blood throughout your body? If you said, “one, the heart”? If you did, you would be mostly wrong. Yes, the heart, about the size of your fist, beats (contracts, then relaxes) about 100,000 times a day. If you multiply that over a lifetime, the amount of work done is staggering. Those 600 muscles (one being the heart) contracts then relaxes during use, too. The difference is the heart beats your whole life while the other muscles work as needed.  One of those needs is walking.

Every time you take a step, reach, bend or lift, smile, blink or scratch your nose, muscles will contract then relax when the task is done. All the muscles including the heart need blood to flow through the tissue to provide oxygen and remove metabolic waste. This includes: nitrogen, carbon dioxide, lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia, urea, and creatinine. The heart is the pump for circulation. Note that your muscles are acting as axillary pumps to transport blood, too. They will lessen the stress on the heart. With every muscle contraction, especially in a steady rhythmic way, you move good fresh blood in and move waste out. Muscles move more blood as you walk, and improve your fitness.

As in anything active, start out by warming up.  A slow, steady walk may be all you need.  My rule of thumb is when you are wearing a sweatshirt with a zipper and feel a need to pull down the zipper, you are warmed up. Walking with comfortable shoes is a plus. Walking around your yard several times should do nicely. If you are walking intensely, such as on dirt hills paths or uneven surfaces, consider a walking stick for balance. Walk at a pace that is not stressful, so you can enjoy the view. You should swing your arms even if you are using a stick. Right hand forward when the left foot steps forward. If you are really into progress, learn to take your pulse or use your smart watch to give you a number. The target heart rate for conditioning is 100 beats per minute. If you just want to warm up, go for the Glow.

“If you are in a bad mood, go for a walk, if you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.”


Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: mastergardeners@countyofnapa.org. or phone at 707-253-4143.  Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.

Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.

Photo credits: www.verywellfit.com, legs; Jeannette E. Warnert