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Gardening health-booster for elderly people

Only 30 minutes of physical activity in garden can keep elderly people in good health. Read on.

health and fitness Updated: Dec 31, 2008 19:11 IST

Good news for older adults who love caring for their plants—various activities and tasks involved in gardening offer recommended physical activity for elderly people who usually lead a sedentary lifestyle and get bored with exercise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine has recommended that at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week can help maintain and improve optimal health.

The recommendation may help older individuals, who can be less likely to fulfil this requirement, yet are more at risk for chronic diseases associated with aging.

Recently a study conducted by Sin-Ae Park, Candice Shoemaker, and Mark Haub of Kansas State University, aimed at finding out if gardening enables older adults to meet the physical activity recommendation set forth by the CDC and the ACSM.

An earlier study concluded that gardening results in improvement in mental health and depression for participants.

But now, investigators wanted to find out if gardening can offer subjects the same positive health benefits that regular physical activity (such as jogging, swimming, or weight training) provides.

They expected that gardening would influence whole-body bone mineral density because it included weight-bearing motions such as pushing a mower, digging holes, pulling weeds, carrying soil, and other tasks required use muscle groups in the entire body.

The researchers conducted the study 14 gardeners aged 63-86 years, and took measurements of their heart rate, oxygen intake and energy expenditure. The participants also kept weekly logs of their gardening activity.

Also, they wanted to determine the average amount of time that gardeners spent at their task per week.

On average, subjects reported gardening about 33 hours per week during May, but averaged only 15 hours per week in June and July.

Older adults are at a higher risk for a sedentary lifestyle, which is one of the factors of increased risk of decline of muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, balance, and cardiopulmonary health.

One reason that makes these adults less likely to participate in physical activity is boredom during exercising.

However, the variety of tasks associated with gardening is one reason older adults are more likely to stick with their regimen; gardening tasks change throughout the season and different activities are involved in daily chores.

The researchers concluded that gardening is a great way for older adults to meet the physical activity recommendations set forth by the CDC and the ACSM.

First Published: Dec 31, 2008 13:49 IST