In advance of the World Congress on Active Ageing held in Glasgow this August, Age Scotland’s Communications and Campaigns Manager, Lindsay Scott, writes about keeping an allotment and how it is beneficial to health and wellbeing.
I have an allotment high on a hill overlooking the Forth valley and the Ochil Hills and as a plot holder I sometimes find myself torn between the allotment’s pros, such as the wonderful view, and its cons.
My patch is more than just a place to grow fruit and vegetables; it’s variously a social spot for fun and recreation, a sanctuary to escape the routines of work and home or a war zone, when I combat nature as she does her best to ruin all my efforts.
The allotment works to its own rhythm, close to nature and the seasons, but that rhythm quickly takes its toll on a body used to a sedentary lifestyle. It becomes an open-air gym, occasionally the toughest type of boot camp.
I’ve been reliably informed by a friend of mine who’s an authority on active ageing that digging, raking and riddling are all repetitive actions that over time strengthen muscle. And that any regular strengthening activities help the body in several ways.
They help produce a burst of growth hormone, essential for maintenance of bone and muscle quality, and gradually lead to a decrease in the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which, whilst necessary for reducing inflammation, in larger quantities causes fat gain and increases depression and bone loss.
But she says that the main benefit of doing such regular strengthening and stamina activities is the positive effect on cognition, in particular, problem-solving abilities and memory – in fact, exercise of this nature twice a week can also help stave off dementia in older people already showing signs of cognitive decline.
So well before I get to that stage, I’m going to embrace the pain and keep on digging it man!