Gardening might be good form of exercise for seniors
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By Julie Ann Anderson  March 21, 2014 12:00 am

Doctors for decades have recommended that aging parents and others exercise regularly in order to improve their health.

However, exercise does not have to include lifting weights at the gym or going for lengthy jogs around the park. A new study provides further support for the idea that a wide range of physical activities can benefit aging parents, spouses and others.


The study

The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently published a study online titled, “The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity.” This Swedish study looked at 4,232 men and women who were 60 years of age at the start of the study and followed these individuals for 12 years. The study’s goal was to determine if their level of physical activity had a positive impact on their health, and it concluded that “a generally active daily life was, regardless of exercising regularly or not, associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults.”


What kind of activity?

Traditional exercise is excellent, but other forms of activity can also be good. Not surprisingly, those who exercised regularly in a “traditional” way were found to be at a reduced risk of heart attack. Perhaps more surprisingly, there was not really a difference between those who engaged in typical forms of regular exercise and subjects who just had active daily lifestyles.

In other words, being active, rather than engaging in particular kinds of activity, seemed to be the more important factor. A person who spent time working in the garden every day, mowing the lawn, or engaging in household chores that required physical activity benefited as much as someone who trained for a long distance run.

The take-home message from all this: for aging parents and others, sitting around and doing nothing is not good. Finding a level of physical activity that works for them – whether it is going to the gym, taking regular brisk walks around the mall, or keeping the hedges trimmed – is very important.

Trying a new form of activity can also be great for the soul as it engages you with new people, and you may build new friendships along the way. I have my yoga friends I enjoy and then my walking buddies who are quite a different bunch from my CrossFit crew.

It helps to keep you socially connected while your body reaps the benefits of the physical activity you are participating in. It’s been a lovely “winter” we have been experiencing, so why not get out for a long stroll at the duck pond or try a class offered at the Rohnert Park Senior Center? If gardening brings you joy, it’s just about that time to get out and get the garden ready for spring.

One reminder: before making any significant changes in the level of physical activity, check in with your own or your loved one’s doctor. It’s always a good idea to get the “go ahead” and make sure there’s nothing you need to avoid.


Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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