Exercises for older adults to prepare for gardening season

According to the National Day Calendar organization, June 6th is National Gardening Exercise Day. In the almost 1500-strong list, this is probably one of the more obscure days to observe—however, it is nonetheless a fun way to remember that Canada’s gardening season is upon us. It’s also a great time to prepare our bodies for some happy digging, planting and pruning.

There’s no doubt that gardening is good for the spirit. Internationally renowned Canadian horticulturist Dr. Allan Armitage says, “Gardening simply does not allow one to be mentally old, because too many hopes and dreams are yet to be realized. The one absolute of gardeners is faith…it is easy to age when there is nothing to believe in, nothing to hope for; gardeners, however, simply refuse to grow up.”

Gardening is also great exercise, burning calories, building muscle, and helping with flexibility. Surprisingly, it’s also one of the best exercises for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis, a disease that affects 1.5 million Canadian over 40. A U.S. research study found that women over 50 who gardened at least once a week had better bone density than those who exercised in other ways, including jogging, swimming, and walking.

So, how do you get your body ready for all these benefits? Here are some common gardening movements accompanied by easy prepatory exercises from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Click on the links to see detailed instructions, and remember to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Bending: Muscles used: core, back, legs.

The right way to do it: Focus on tightening your leg muscles (your quadriceps and your hamstrings) as you bend forward. Keep your knees slightly bent. To strengthen those muscles, try the Bird Dog exercise.

Raking: Muscles used: core, shoulders, arms.

The right way to do it: Use short, quick motions, and keep the rake close to your body. Switch sides every two to three minutes. To strengthen these muscles, try wall/countertop pushups.

Squatting: Muscles used: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings.

The right way to do it: Keeping your torso upright, lower yourself until your bottom almost touches the ground. Try to keep your weight on your heels. To strengthen these muscles, try this chair squat exercise.

Gardening, including gardening clubs, community gardens and indoor gardening, is just one of many activities offered in Chartwell’s LiveNow programming. To learn more about the benefits of living in a Chartwell residence for yourself or a loved one, call 1-855-461-0685 today to speak to a Chartwell representative.