Ruud Kleinpaste prescribes exercise through pest control.
Our Bugman prescribes exercise through pest control.
many, many years ago, I travelled New Zealand and parts of the world filming items for Maggie’s
Garden Show. It truly was great fun and an honour to visit people’s gardens and meet inspirational folk who were like-minded and, generally speaking, nature nerds.
One segment I clearly remember dealt with exercises for gardeners, stuff such as warming up, stretching muscles, correct posture, how to lift heavy bags of potting mix, reaching for high branches when pruning, being sure-footed and stable.
It wasn’t really my gig. I was young and bulletproof; had played tennis three, four times per week since I was a student; did long tramps and weird climbs up hills and mountains to find birds and collect insect specimens; I swam a lot, did a bit of body surfing and a bit of mountain biking. I was reasonably fit, really – still am!
But as most gardeners at some stage find out, with growing age come growing problems. Those bumps and bruises catch up with you. A brush with rheumatoid arthritis caused me more than a few hassles. It spontaneously went away, but is slowly coming back again.
Lately, the arthroscopies on both my knees in the early 1990s are starting to prove they were a bad idea at the time! All that tennis, football, climbing and falling as well as playing with kids and grandkids wear out your joints.
So, I signed up for osteoarthritis classes at my local medical centre in Halswell. It has changed my life and gave me a whole new horizon for activities and especially gardening. And here’s the so-called “elevator pitch”: These classes are all about early intervention, learning to live with arthritis (the throbbing pain) and it certainly provides a strategy to delay knee or hip replacements.
At the same time, it prepares you for these surgical procedures and helps with a speedy recovery.
Our series of classes spanned 10 weeks and incorporated a heap of information from guest speakers: diet adjustment, weight and pain management, podiatry and medication. A surgeon magically appears and tells about the procedure, what to expect, how to prepare yourself and what the options are. Fascinating stuff!
Medical science is extraordinary: reading labels of drugs and foods, the myths and legends and unsubstantiated “benefits” of various expensive compounds. It’s truly amazing to learn how you can make wild claims and get away with it. I reckon the pesticides industry is better regulated when it comes to efficacy data!
The physiotherapists and course leaders spend a considerable amount of time taking you through some pretty good exercises, especially resistance workouts that strengthen your muscles around knees, glutes and other areas that will make you look good in Speedos.
In amongst all the info and fun in our classes, you quickly learn that the most important elements of managing osteoarthritis are exercise, strength ( built up by doing resistance training) and weight loss.
Up and down the country, there are other such arthritis classes, often based on hydro-therapy with water based exercises (immersion classes). Arthritis New Zealand (Kaiponapona Aotearoa)
How about mixing these green prescriptions with adopting a Predator-Free New Zealand trapline.
has some of those on their website too (arthritis.org.nz/ exercise-classes/).
Their focus and general message is – unsurprisingly – the same as that from the experts at my osteoarthritis classes: early intervention is important and not just for gardeners, but in fact, everybody!
Arthritis, in all its forms, has a yearly cost to our country of some $12 billion dollars.
Two of the “fun facts” I learned recently is that 50 per cent of people with arthritis are of working age and by far the largest cost is loss of wellbeing.
Suddenly not so fun anymore, is it?
But judging from the results of my osteo-classes, exercises and movement can do a marvellous job to keep me gardening without much discomfort. “Use it or lose it” is the mantra and gardeners will have no problem doing exactly that.
Green Prescriptions (0800 ACTIVE) have a range of customised activity plans too, so make sure to check them out.
But I just got another idea for core strength and healthy movement in the company of a small group of like-minded people: How about mixing these green prescriptions with adopting a Predator-Free New Zealand trapline!
You’re out in nature, checking and re-setting rodent, stoat and possum traps, in your own tempo, of course, while enjoying the returning birds and other biodiversity.
What do you mean, “loss of wellbeing”?
Osteoarthritis on X-ray.