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  • Writer's pictureGregory D. Hamilton

Gardening & Functional Fitness

Gardeners Dig Functional Fitness

Deidra Champagne spends all day making beautiful floral arrangements at her business. And in her off-time, she’s at the gym, staying strong, limber, and fit for the demands of running her shop and enjoying her vegetable garden at home. Deidra, 61, has been working out with resistance and cardio training for more than a decade. Her main motivation includes preventing an injury.

She uses a trainer three times a week who helps her with mobility, balance, strength, and fluid motion. She can enjoy long days feeling better than before she started exercising regularly.

Stay Strong for Gardening

Gardening is a great hobby and a good physical challenge. It’s a full-body workout that burns up to 300 calories in an hour. Millions of people over 50 have enjoyed the hobby throughout their lifetimes. Here are just five reasons they should keep it up.

  1. Gardening improves strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance.

  2. It improves self-esteem and fights depression.

  3. It lowers blood pressure and physical and mental stress.

  4. It’s a great creative outlet.

  5. And it provides a powerful social outlet, as well, with neighbors, community gardens, and even grandkids.

“The variety of tasks associated with gardening is one reason older adults are more likely to stick with their regimen,” says the American Society for Horticultural Science. “Gardening tasks change throughout the season and different activities are involved in daily chores.” Gardening can be a component of a lifestyle that’s good for mental health, too, including dementia. “It appears safe and reasonable to recommend … the maintenance of physical activity, especially daily gardening, in the hope of reducing the incidence of dementia in future years,” according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

‘It’s Very Therapeutic’

Deidra enjoys tending a vegetable garden in her off-time. “It is a mind-body connection – so you’re in touch with the soil, you’re in touch with nature. It’s very therapeutic.” She recommends using raised garden beds to reduce bending and crouching. Enjoy your hobby in the early morning or early evening. Use sunscreen and a hat. Wear good shoes. Regular physical exercise – and a focus on “functional fitness” – keeps you able to perform your favorite activities late in life, and gardening is no different from golf, tennis, or jogging. Squats, pushups, planks, and other everyday movements will work your legs, core, back, and arms -- for gardening or everyday tasks.

“It’s non-negotiable,” Deidra says about her workout schedule. “There’s a lot of stress involved in running your own business,” plus physical challenges like carrying floral displays weighed down by the water and standing on her feet. “I look forward to working out because I see the benefit,” Deidra says. “It gives me energy all day. It’s investing in myself.” Like tending a garden, you might say.

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