Looking for Ways to Preserve Your Mobility as You Age? A New Study Says Gardening Can Help

This study also revealed that other light exercising, like shopping and going for walks, is just as helpful.

While stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have largely put the world at a standstill, quarantine has allowed people to enjoy hobbies (or pick up new ones) like never before. Two activities that have become extremely popular during social distancing? Gardening and going for daily walks. Now, new research says that these very activities did a lot more than keep you busy at home—they may have also helped improve your overall health. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, women who engage in even minor physical activities, like gardening, shopping, and walking, increase and sustain their mobility as they age.

mature woman gardening
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The researchers rounded up 5,735 women over the age of 63 to participate in the study. This age demographic was important for research purposes, as the team noted that one in four women above 65 currently can't walk two blocks or climb a flight of stairs (which is also called mobility disability).

"Older adults who want to maintain their mobility should know that all movement, not just moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, counts," said Andrea LaCroix, a researcher from the University of California San Diego. "We found that, among older women, light-intensity physical activity preserves mobility later in life."

Each participant used an accelerometer for a seven-day period to track how much they exercised on a daily basis. After digging into the results, the team found that the average came out to be nearly five hours a day of light physical activity. In the end, they discovered that women who exercised lightly the most experienced a 46 percent less chance of losing mobility than women who didn't keep active as much. And those who didn't have mobility issues at the beginning of the study, who also took the most time participating in light exercising, had a 40 percent less chance of losing their mobility over six years.

The takeaway? Getting outside and planting flowers, vegetables, or herbs could be one of the smartest (and easiest!) things you can do to maintain or improve your health as you age.

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