Get Fit Through Gardening for Seniors

I receive a lot questions concerning the concept  Get Fit Through Gardening and senior citizens. Obviously, a lot senior citizens garden. And while the idea of "going for the burn" as you plant petunias may sound funny, hear me out.

A couple of key points.

Forget the burn! My goal is to help you be less sore, not hurt your back and encourage you and your friends to get outside and move!

You're not going to be healthier sitting on the couch eating Twinkies.

If you have bad knees or a bad back, raise the garden, in barrels or planters to waist height. Buy a bench to sit on while gardening.

Instead  of long, marathon gardening sessions, garden for shorter periods but more intensely.

Visit your doctor, and, after he's done laughing, when you tell him you're thinking of adopting Get Fit Through Gardening as your exercise program, explain to him what it is. Print out some of the pages from this web site. Remember, you're a pioneer. It may take many, many years before a significant amount of the population knows about and understands what Get Fit Through Gardening really is.

Put your personal well-being above the plants. Ok, to many of you, this sounds like blasphemy , but that is one of the main differences between Get Fit Through Gardening and traditional gardening. With traditional gardening, the focus is on the plants. With Get Fit Through Gardening, the focus is on you.

Stop gardening when you're sore, tired, hot or bored. This is not pro football. You want to avoid hurting or injuring knees, back, arms or legs.

Take normal precautions against the sun, (use sun block), bugs (wear long pants, if possible), calluses (wear gloves), eye strain (wear sunglasses) and clothes that constrict your movements.

Ease into Get Fit Through Gardening by:

  1. stretching once or twice week; increase to every day

  2. garden using the aerobic model, once a week, increase to three times per week.

  3. wear a heart monitor while you garden and maintain 50 - 80 pecent of your maximum rate for your age.

Garden (at least once or twice a week) following the Aerobic Model:

  1. Warm-Up
  2. Stretch (leg stretches, hips, shoulders, neck)
  3. Light Exercise - light raking, picking up branches, pruning
  4. Increase Exercise Rate - (Raise heart rate to between 50 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate.)
  5. Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes (Exercising thirty minutes or longer will burn more fat)
  6. Stretch (again)
  7. Cool down

Get Fit Through Gardening should never interfere with "traditional" gardening.

Get in the habit of stretching every day whether you garden or not.

Six Positions for raking, hoeing and weeding.

  1. Bend one leg, knee down to the ground, keep the other foot flat,
  2. Bend both legs in a kneeling position.
  3. Squatting - known as the "Oriental Squat" this may be uncomfortable at first but can be learned after significant practice.
  4. Lunge and weed (my personal favorite). Using a hand weeder (Smith and Hawken), you will lunge with on leg straight back and bend one knee in front of you.
  5. Sitting: If you're knees, feet or legs won't permit much bending then sit and garden. Exercise your arms and waist. Use long handled tools.
  6. Standing, with knees bent, back straight in a crouch position, raking in a wide, sweeping motion.

* When raking or hoeing always alternate between a right-handed and left-handed stance.

* Always Breathe out during the exertion phase and in

* Use Ergonomic Tools - long-handled with a push / pull motion.

* Garden for short periods - 1 to two hours maximum unless you are in shape.

* Rake, hoe or weed in terms of repetitions and sets.

* Always, Always, ALWAYS bend from your knees and not your back!

For more information, my books, Get Fit Through Gardening (2008) and Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way, are available!

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Home Page This page updated March 17, 2008