Gardening for Aging Children

by Marsha Goldberg, Fairfax Master Gardener
It’s a fickle twist of fate that as we find ourselves with more time to garden, our bodies seem less able to withstand the stress from lifting, pushing, bending and all the other assorted tasks that go with this otherwise gratifying hobby. In fact, when done correctly, the physical work associated with gardening can actually have beneficial effects. You have probably heard the current research that shows that being outside and in the garden can have positive effects on mental health; now, data is showing that as exercise, gardening is almost as beneficial as jogging.

Here are some strategies and moves you can use to help your body benefit from the workout you get when gardening. As much as you love being outside, don’t be too eager to get out as quickly as possible. Your muscles tighten up when you are at rest and circulation decreases, which is why experts now say that you should get up and move at least every 20 minutes. Think about what happens when you sleep! No wonder we often wake up stiff and have to move a bit slowly. Your muscles need time to warm up, which happens as the circulation slowly increases, so give yourself time to let that occur. You can do some gentle yoga stretches in the morning, spend a few leisurely minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike, take a short walk or start the day with a hot shower. All of those activities will loosen up your muscles a bit, especially along your spine. Then start your garden time with less strenuous tasks such as light pruning until your muscles become more flexible.