Gardening is a great way to get back to nature and has plenty of added health benefits as we age. From increasing physical fitness and mental well-being to decreasing stress and helping to reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s, taking up indoor or outdoor gardening can be a worthwhile hobby.
Gardening for Better Physical Health
Whether you garden in an outdoor plot or care for a host of houseplants, you’ll help improve your physical fitness. Gardening activities is a great way to keep lesser-used muscles engaged, increase mobility and flexibility, and help improve endurance and strength. Gardening outdoors also gives an added boost of vitamin D, which helps in protecting bone strength, immune function and can reduce inflammation.
Gardening for Improved Mental Well-Being
Spending time around plants – planting, caring for and nurturing them – reduces stress and improves mood. Plants are a symbol of life, so interacting with them and enjoying a green space is a meaningful activity that nourishes the human spirit. Plus, seeing our efforts result in beautiful blooms, increased growth or delicious produce delivers a real sense of achievement.
Gardening to Stave Off Alzheimer’s
Working in the garden requires critical thinking skills and exercising short-term memory. That brain stimulation can help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Gardening With Safety in Mind
With all the benefits gardening holds for older adults, it’s a good idea to practice the hobby safely. Here are timely tips to make your gardening activities safe and enjoyable:
- Always warm up before gardening. Prevent sore joints and muscles by doing some simple stretches before you tackle your gardening chores. Drink some water and do a little aerobic activity to warm up. Then slowly stretch each muscle group and breathe deeply through each stretch.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration is essential all the time, but especially if you work outdoors where conditions can cause you to become dehydrated. Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, bring water with you and take plenty of hydration breaks when gardening.
- Protect your skin. As we age, our skin gets thinner, making us more susceptible to sunburn and injury. Before doing outdoor gardening, be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed skin. Wear a hat to shade your face. Use gardening gloves to protect your hands. If you get a cut, scrape or insect bite, treat it immediately and keep it clean and dry while it heals.
- Avoid slopes and embankments. Balance issues and weaker bones are no match for gardening on slopes or embankments. Be sure your gardening activities are done on level ground.
- Invest in long-handled garden tools. While a certain amount of bending and stretching is good for the body and the soul, kneeling and bending can be problematic if you have arthritis or joint issues. Long-handled tools can help you accomplish gardening chores without the ache.
Finally, remember to pace yourself. You don’t have to tackle all your gardening chores in one day. Enjoy the time you spend in your garden, take breaks as needed and work at a safe pace.
Interested in applying your gardening talent at your Embark community? Look for activity opportunities where you can cultivate a green thumb and new friends.