Newswise — For many people the chance to be outside, unwind and see life blossoming before their eyes is motivation enough to get into the yard. Now, add the extra benefit that gardening and yard work is exercise and you may see a lot more people with dirt under their fingernails.

"Working in your garden is a great way to exercise. Whether pulling weeds or spreading mulch you are using major muscles all over your body and you're sure to break a sweat," said Kara Smith, special programs coordinator for the Loyola University Health System's Center for Fitness.

To make sure more than your green thumb is getting a workout Loyola Center for Fitness offers these gardening exercise tips:1. Don't make it a marathon, keep a regular gardening routine. Schedule at least 30-60 minutes of yard work two to three times per week.2. Warm up your body by taking a brisk walk around the yard.3. When raking, change the movement and alternate the sides of your body to ensure you are working them equally.4. When digging, switch hands often so you are using both arms. This helps prevent muscle imbalances, repetitive motion injuries and blisters.

As with any good exercise program be sure to cool down with these stretches to help alleviate post yard work aches and pains.1. Hamstring stretch: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and slide one foot in front of the other. Gently sit your hips back and support your upper body on the leg you did not move. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch legs2. Lower back stretch: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bend knees slightly and bend at the hips. Support your upper body with your hands on your thighs. Gently round your back so it arches like a cat.3. Chest opening: Stand tall and relax your shoulders down your back. Reach hands back with thumbs pointing up. If this is uncomfortable, grasp hands behind back and lift your chest.4. Upper-back stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bring palms together and reach arms away from body. Feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.

To ensure a healthful experience here are a few more tips to in mind while working in the yard.1. Wear sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts, pants and a wide-brimmed hat to limit sun exposure to your skin.2. Drink plenty of water.3. Bend at your knees and keep your back straight when lifting heavy items.4. Use a kneeling cushion to support your knees.5. Use gloves to help prevent blisters on your hands.

As with any exercise program be sure to check with your physician before you start and listen to your body for signs of stress and fatigue.

Register for reporter access to contact details