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The Blue Zones: Gardening as a form of movement


Have you heard of the Blue Zones? They refer to the communities where people not only live longer but also enjoy a high quality of life in their older age. If you haven’t already watched “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” on Netflix then we highly recommend you do! The Blue Zones include the five regions of Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Today we are going to highlight one aspect of the Blue Zones that relates to keeping physically active everyday and that can be done by most people regardless of age or disability; Gardening.

Gardening is a favourite activity of centenarians from the blue zones and can be not only a relaxing, rewarding and physically beneficial pastime for people of all ages, but provides access to good quality foods. Gardening is a great way of maintaining mobility, range of motion and flexibility, and encourages use of all motor skills through walking, reaching, bending, digging, planting seeds and taking cuttings. You are generally engaging all major muscle groups including the arms, legs, abdomen, shoulders and back.

Making Gardening accessible
In the Blue Zones, people are gardening well into their late 90’s and 100’s. Although they may have some limitations, people with physical challenges don’t have to be left out of the enjoyment and benefits of gardening. With some careful planning gardening can be made accessible to everyone.

Raised garden beds or container garden beds are ideal to avoid bending over for people with limited movement. Beds should be within easy reach of gardeners who are either standing or sitting.

An irrigation system can avoid the need for carrying heavy water containers for those with limited motion or who use a wheelchair.

Extra wide rows between garden beds so people who use a wheelchair or use walkers can get around. Dry and slip-proof walkways are best to avoid falls.

Straight paths that are clear of overhanging plants are helpful for visually impaired people. Sounds from windchimes, water features or other devices can help people stay orientated.

Knee pads for kneeling should be available for those with stiff joints and arthritis, along with a solid structure nearby to help them get up again. Chairs and benches also provide a place to rest between chores and offer areas to enjoy the peace of the garden

You plant the seeds and you are going to be encouraged to water those seeds, weed and harvest. When you are done you are going to eat an organic vegetable, which might taste better because you grew it! Overall gardening offers an array of benefits for people whose activities are limited. It’s a great form of exercise that’s not overly strenuous, offers an opportunity to socialise and encourages you to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine!

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