February 1, 2014
Children Could Benefit From Physical Activity Through Gardening
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A garden can grow food, become a thing of beauty, and it can also be good for one’s health. A recent study published the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that gardening – and other simple activities such as home repair – could reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke and even prolong life by as much as 30 percent among seniors. The study found that these everyday activities could serve as a workout for people of a “certain age” who wouldn’t otherwise get exercise.
A new study has found that this activity, which is usually one reserved for adults, could help children stay fit as well. Researchers in South Korea reported that children can reap the benefits from digging, raking and weeding. It may sound a lot like “chores” that many kids already are required to perform, but the team said that specific garden-based programs could also help engage children in physical activity and promote more healthy lifestyles.
The study, which was conducted by researchers Sin-Ae Park, Ho-Sang Lee, Kwan-Suk Lee, Ki-Cheol Son, and Candice Shoemaker, was recently published in the online journal HortTechnology.
For this study, which was conducted in two South Korean garden environments, the researchers looked at the activities conducted by 17 children as they engaged in 10 specific gardening tasks including: digging, raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium and planting transplants.
“The children performed the 10 gardening tasks at a garden previously established in Cheongju, Chungbuk, South Korea,” the authors noted in the paper’s summary. “They visited the garden twice and performed five different tasks on each visit. Five minutes were provided to complete each gardening task and a 5-minute rest was allowed between each task. The children wore a portable telemetric calorimeter and a heart rate monitor for measurement of oxygen uptake and heart rate during the gardening tasks.”
The sensors that the children wore allowed the researchers to measure the activities, and the results suggested that these 10 gardening tasks actually represented moderate- to high-intensity physical activity for the children, with digging and raking being among the most “high intensity” of the physical activities. Other tasks, which included weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing seeds, harvesting, watering, mixing growing medium and planting transplants were still determined to be “moderate-intensity” physical activities by the researchers.
The researchers believe the findings from the study would be useful information for programs that utilize garden-based therapeutic interventions for children with low levels of physical ability; and moreover could even facilitate the development of future garden-based exercise programs for some children.
Another recent study, conducted by Professor Guy Faulkner at Toronto University found that a small amount of exercise or other physical activity, which would even include just gardening for 30 minutes every day, could be helpful in warding off depression in people of all ages.
A similar study, conducted at the Cooper Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, found that as little as three hours of regular exercise or other physical activity each week could reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression as effectively as Prozac or other anti-depressants. It also found that gardening could be a part of daily moderate physical activity and could have a profound impact on treating and even preventing depression.