gardening for exercise
1. Start gently and loosen up
2. Protect your back
3. Keep breathing
4. Mix up the tasks
5. Stay hydrated
6. Take breaks - savour your good work
The studies keep pointing to the same thing.
People who don't exercise regularly have higher levels of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. Yet even obese people who are fit are more likely to out-live people of average weight who are unfit. And five hours a week of moderate aerobic exercise can cancel 30 years of age-related decline in cardiovascular fitness after just six months.
So when one in ten Australians over 50 isn't exercising enough for any cardiovascular benefit, it's time to treat the garden less as a chore and more like a gym. Once the working life slows up, it's time the low maintenance garden loses some of its appeal. Pruning hedges, preparing veggie beds and replenishing mulch can be embraced as one of the week's workouts rather just than a burden.
The usual slip-slop-slap warnings apply but stress instantly falls away outside among the sights, smells and sounds of the garden - while also getting a shot of vitamin D.
As with the gym, anyone with a cardiac history or returning to exercise after an extended break should start slowly and consult a doctor first. It's safest to warm up with lighter stretching exercises to loosen muscles first - maybe some sweeping or trimming dead flowers. When moving on to heavier lifting, always bend knees and engage those core muscles to protect your back.
The bending and reaching of planting, pruning and weeding often starts with a big inhalation. Like professional weight lifters, keep breathing to hold the position longer.
But avoid over-working at any one task. Mix up your duties and positions - and stretch in between. Schedule gardening sessions for cooler parts of the day. Take regular breaks and keep the water bottle handy. It may be exercise but it's no race to a fitter, longer, more independent life.
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