With spring comes warmer weather and the gardening season is upon us. When we set aside enough time for gardening we really see results. We can stand back and watch plants grow and bloom knowing it was our green thumb that made it happen. Osteoporosis shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this activity. Based on information we came across from the CDC about family gardening, we learned that gardening helps battle against obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and even premature death. And exposure to naturally occurring sunlight through outdoor gardening provides us with an excellent dose of vitamin D which helps absorb the calcium our bodies need.
The following are some basic recommendations to help make gardening an effective and safe form of exercise for those of us suffering from osteoporosis or weak bones.
- Aim to be active at least 2.5 hours weekly. The goal is to raise your breathing and heart rate, which help strengthen your muscles. Did you know you can burn around 150 calories by gardening in about 30-45 minutes?
- If you suffer from osteoporosis, don’t bend over, instead stand up straight, kneel or work on your hands and knees.
- Avoid bending and twisting movements, they can put too much strain on the body.
- If you need to reach down for something, try bending from the hips and keep your back straight.
- Gardening exercise includes: walking, reaching, squatting, kneeling, digging holes, planting, watering, hoeing, weeding, and harvesting over and over again.
- Like any workout, stretch before beginning your gardening and take breaks when you feel tired. Pushing yourself too far may result in an injury or osteoporosis-related fracture.
- Consider using raised beds, retractable hanging baskets, wheelbarrows and containers on castors to make moving around in your garden much easier.
- Whenever possible, choose longer-handled and lighter-weight gardening equipment.
- Use care with gardening equipment; when you shovel, rake or hoe do not bend forward or twist. Try standing with your feet apart, one foot a little ahead of the other. Shift your weight from one foot to the other in a rocking motion.
- If you need to carry an object, hold it close to your body. It will help with balance and it will keep from putting too much strain on your extremities. If you are carrying items in a bucket, try to divide the load between two buckets to maintain balance by carrying them in each hand.
- If you feel discomfort while gardening, stop immediately.
As spring turns into summer enjoy your garden’s progress and growth. This activity is one that can bring seasons of enjoyment with beautiful and tasty results while improving your bone health.
Additional sources for our research can be found on: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Gardening_for_seniors
If you have any additional gardening with osteoporosis questions, or you would like to learn more about your bone health, please don’t hesitate to call our Bone Health Clinic at OAM, 616-459-7101.