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Plant and tend a garden for good health.

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:01pm
Finding ways to stay healthy and happy is a lifetime endeavor. Gardening is a great way to get exercise, especially for elders. Harvesting flowers and nutritious food benefits both mind and body.Surprisingly, gardening can help older adults maintain a healthy level of activity. Digging, raking, mulching and planting are physically challenging and can provide the recommended thirty minutes of daily activity we all need to maintain good health.

Research published February 2009 in the journal Hort-science showed that gardening is also a good way to keep older hands strong and flexible in addition to other health benefits. Remaining active, flexible and strong can lead to increased years of independent living.

Candice Shoemaker, Kansas State University professor of horticulture says, "One of the things we found is that older adults who are gardeners have better hand strength and pinch force, which is a big concern as you age. We found that with gardening tasks older adults can, among other things, improve their hand strength and self-esteem at the same time."

The authors also believe larger studies of the health benefits of gardening would show improved sleep quality and satisfaction with life.

Gardening could also aid in the fight against childhood obesity. For older adults, gardening is an alternative to sports and other exercise.Shoemaker also says gardening provides motivation to get out and move. "For one thing, you know there's a plant you've got to go out and water and weed to keep alive. If we get the message out there that older adults can get health benefits from gardening, they'll realize that they don't have to walk around the mall to get exercise."

Gardening can also reduce risk of stroke, according to a study published 2005 from the American Heart Association. The findings were reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, showing that leisure activity, such as heavy gardening can reduce health risks associated with sedentary lifestyle that can easily occur after age 65.

Children involved in gardening programs learn more about nutrition and the environment.
If you spend too much time on the couch, commuting, or in front a computer, consider the benefits of gardening to increase your physical activity, enhance your immediate environment, and reconnect with nature.

Stepping outside to nurture plants, whether it is fruits, vegetables or flowers can improve strength and flexibility and reduce stroke risk for older adults and keep hands strong and flexible. The health benefits of gardening are well worth considering when finding ways to remain healthy and active. Children who gardencan also benefit from the positive impact of activity. Reconnecting with nature through gardening can also reduce stress levels.

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