According to the American Heart Association, twenty-five percent of American adults are not physically active, an important factor in our high rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. A brisk walk, they say, is one of the best ways to have a healthy heart.
According to a recent AARP article, exercise can help keep knees functional and pain free. Side shuffle, leg lifts and wall squat were offered as knee-friendly exercises.
These are excellent first steps toward maintaining health, but if you used the time spent walking and exercising in raising your own food, you’d find yourself engaging in a whole range of new exercises and movements you didn’t know were possible.
Walking would still be your main exercise, especially if you tend to be absentminded and disorganized and can’t remember to bring everything you need in one trip. Whether you’re gardening or taking care of chickens and other livestock, there are usually many trips back to the house for more seeds and stakes, or to the tool shed for the hammer and nails you forgot for that chicken coop fixit project, or to the grain bin for more buckets of chicken feed.
Lugging hay to animals with a sled can be excellent exercise. If you make it too easy for yourself by setting out a bale with the tractor, (unless you have a herd of beef cows) you won’t get the benefit of the exercise. Never do things the easy way except in severe weather. And as you get older, never wish things were easier. That’s just one step closer to the armchair of inactivity and stiff joints. You have to keep moving.
There will be days, of course, with less activity, when you will want to take that brisk walk recommended by the AHA, maybe out to check on the animals. There is a storm hood available at army surplus stores that is perfect for protecting your face from the cold winter wind as you walk.
Besides walking, pitching out animal pens and chicken coops, lugging hay, feed, and water and all the different movements needed in gardening will keep you limber, especially if you let that motorized tiller sit. You will side shuffle down your rows while planting corn or hoeing potatoes. Leg lifts will get you across the fence around your garden or hay lot. You’ll squat while weeding or picking beans or getting a closer look at the critter that’s eating holes in your cabbage leaves. All these movements will help keep your knees and hips from getting stiff.
An added bonus will be weight loss, not only from the activity, but from time spent with the refrigerator out of sight and out of mind. If you nibble it will be on heart-healthy, fresh-from-the-garden veggies or edible green weeds.
And weight loss translates into more ease of movement and less wear and tear on the joints.
The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from taking charge of your health and well-being as well as producing your own food will make it all worthwhile.