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Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years!

Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years!

Over a third of people over 60 choose gardening as the activity that gives them most pleasure in life, and it is not only pleasurable, but has major heath and fitness benefits too. These are just some of them: -

1. The physical exertion involved in gardening is a great complement to your workouts in the gym, involving stretching, bending, lifting, pushing and carrying. While enjoying yourself in the garden, you are also working all the major muscle groups, building strength and burning calories, increasing your heart rate and improving your range of movement.

2. Sowing fine seeds, handling tiny seedlings, potting up plants, pruning and weeding increase flexibility and maintain dexterity in your fingers and hands.

sewing seeds helps with manual dexterity

3. Working outdoors in the fresh air decreases your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lowering your risk of diabetes, slowing osteoporosis and boosting your immune system.

4. Gardening is increasingly used therapeutically to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and social isolation. Gardening guru, Monty Don, attributes the wellbeing of gardeners to the “recharging” you get from sticking your hands in the soil and spending time outdoors in nature.

5. Being out in the sunshine boosts your absorption of Vitamin D, often lacking in the diet, but essential for strong bones and teeth.

6. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is really exciting and rewarding, and can encourage healthy cooking and eating. What can be more delightful than watching your grandchildren pull carrots, dig new potatoes, pick fresh peas and help you cook them for the whole family?

growing vegetables combines fitness & healthy eating

7. Gardening keeps you in touch with the seasons and weather and encourages you to appreciate the natural world in all its variety and beauty.

8. Learning about the limitless range of plants, delicious vegetables and gorgeous flowers available to grow is endlessly intriguing, and it’s wonderful to create a beautiful outdoor space, a haven from the stresses of life, to enjoy with your family and friends.

If you’re taking up gardening for the first time, remember these tips: -

· Start slowly, if you’re not used to gardening. Begin and end with some stretches to loosen you up, bend your knees to protect your back when lifting, and vary your activities in short bursts to avoid over-working particular muscles.

· Wear appropriate unrestrictive and stretchy clothing, protective gloves and stout footwear, to give you free movement and avoid injury.

· Work at waist height, where possible. Potting benches, raised beds and planters can make gardening available to even those with restricted mobility.

· When planting or weeding at ground level, use a padded kneeler or kneepads to protect your joints.

· In summer, garden early in the day or in the evening, to avoid the heat of noon, enjoy the freshness and listen to the birds singing.

· Invest in few really high-quality tools – a spade, fork, rake, hoe, sharp secateurs, and a trowel and hand fork. They will make gardening easier and minimize the risk of injury.

· If you don’t have a garden of your own, consider taking on or sharing an allotment. Better still, join a community gardening group – Britain in Bloom for the conventional, guerilla gardening for the maverick, a green gym group for the conservation- conscious – and make friends, while keeping fit at the same time.

A few garden tools
Colin Crosbie, curator at the beautiful RHS garden at Wisley in Surrey, agrees that gardening is the perfect way to stay healthy.

"The great thing about gardening is that it can be both energetic and relaxing at the same time," he says, "It is an all year round activity — even in the winter you can be raking the leaves, working in the greenhouse or doing some pruning. And there is nothing better than being able to stand back and admire the fruits of your labour."

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