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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Sports Council for Wales backs gardening for helping us stay healthy

Apr 13 2009 by Amy Willis, Western Mail

GARDENING is set to become the latest health-boosting exercise as thousands of families head outdoors.

Research has suggested that one to two hours of gardening a day can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

And the Sports Council for Wales has recommended gardening as an ideal daily cardiovascular workout.

The health benefits of gardening have been revealed ahead of the start of the RHS Show Cardiff, this weekend.

Vigorous gardening activities, including pruning, planting, digging and weeding expend as much energy as more traditional forms of exercise, such as walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics and a workout at the gym, according to the Sports Council for Wales.

And a session in the garden can contribute to the government’s recommendation of doing 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times a week to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Studies also show eating homegrown fruit and vegetables can help reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers and strokes.

Carol Ann Wood, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), said: “Gardening is a recommended form of physical activity that brings about improvement in both physical and mental health for people who would not take other exercise.

“The majority of my patients are over 65 and for them, going to the gym or going swimming is not realistic, but gardening is.”

But being green fingered also carries a safety warning. More than a quarter of a million people each year end up in Accident and Emergency with gardening injuries.

Helen Welch, from the Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, said: “Gardening can be tough physical work.

“Like any form of exercise or activity, gardening can increase the demands on joints, ligaments and muscles.”

Statistics from the CSP show that 89% of homes in Wales have a garden and Gwynedd is top of the UK gardening league with 97% of houses having gardens.

Chartered physiotherapist Sammy Margo, who helped draw up 10 golden rules for safe gardening for the CSP, said: “The figures show that most of us have access to a garden. Stretching, lifting, twisting and bending while tending the garden can force the body into awkward postures.

“These actions pose a real threat to muscles and joints, especially if they have been neglected through lack of exercise and sedentary living.”

And Philippa Ford, the CSP’s policy officer for Wales, added: “Bank holidays provide a great opportunity for people to get out into the garden and the exercise and fresh air is very good for you.

“However, you have to be careful not to overdo it, particularly with regard to bending.

“Make sure you pace yourself. Take regular breaks and change position and jobs frequently so you do not put too much strain on your body.

“It’s always tempting to do too much but you don’t want to regret it afterwards.”

The Royal Horticultural Society’s annual gardening show in Cardiff, which runs from April 17 and 19, will feature a number of displays showing the health benefits of gardening.

The Really Fit Garden, designed by Lynne Allbutt, with a trampoline concealed in outdoor decking and a pergola for pull-ups, will show the versatility of an outdoor space by integrating gym equipment into the traditional garden design.

The Greenest Garden on Show by the Edible Landscaping Team, shows a low maintenance, wildlife-friendly, edible garden with espaliered fruit trees and a tall, narrow greenhouse for vegetables to demonstrate the range of fruit and vegetables which can be grown in a small space.

Tickets for the RHS show can be booked on http://www.rhs.org.uk or by calling 0844 209 1810. RHS membership is available throughout the year for anyone interested in gardening.

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