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Elevated garden beds: A healthy choice for the overweight

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Overall, 68 percent of Bermuda's population is overweight or obese according to the Health Disparity Survey 2013 conducted by the Bermuda Health Council.

Persons between the ages of 40 and 64 are most likely to be more overweight than young adults and seniors. An unprecedented 14 percent of our population is currently unemployed adding another layer of stress.

This could be a perfect storm and we can either take a fatalistic view or use it as an opportunity to shift how we live.

There is a saying “health is wealth”. Would you rather have a life lived simply with good health, or a life lived large in poor health? With good health you have more options, but are you willing to do the work?

The survey shows that nearly one in three adults report having less than one serving of fruit per day; nearly one in ten eat one serving of vegetables per day. One in five have fast food more than three times a week. Most adults reported low levels of physical activity.

We have been told time and time again that fresh fruits and vegetables and exercise are essential for good health. Fruits and vegetables are perceived as expensive yet fast food is equally costly. Driving has replaced walking. Fast food has replaced proper meals eaten together. This needs changing.

Obesity is now regarded as a new disease that puts those affected at risk for a number of other debilitating illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, not to mention runaway healthcare costs. We can change this.

I recently spent two weeks assisting an elderly person who is overweight and lives alone. She fell, sprained her wrist, and was instantly disabled because she was unable to get up off the floor due to her weight. The wrist healed but she struggles to get herself up out of a chair. If she gains more weight she will be unable to get up unassisted.

She faces the prospect of losing her independence, which she values, and could end up in an institution because a home assistant would not be able to lift her. For this reason alone it is imperative that obese persons take action while they can.

Take advantage of the services available through the Department of Health. Their Nutrition Services offer nutritional assessments and counselling for persons referred by a doctor. If you can't afford a doctor go to the Health Clinic. If you are employed it is covered by your insurance. If you are not employed you can still receive service for free. The Health Promotions Office at the Department of Health, the Diabetes Association, personal trainers and exercise buddies are resources for you.

Start a garden. If you need scientific proof that gardening is a healthy choice there is a study conducted by the University of Utah that “suggests possible links between gardening and staying trim”.

The study compared Body Mass Index or BMI (an indicator for body fatness) between gardeners and non-gardeners over a year. They found the BMI to be lower by 1.8 points for female and 2.4 points for male gardeners compared with non-gardeners of the same sex.

People who are overweight can garden as effectively as fit people by choosing gardening techniques suitable for their physical constraints. If unable to stoop, bend or squat, raised bed planters elevated to a comfortable level will work. Pots and containers work too but require more frequent watering.

These methods are not just a choice for people who are physically challenged but for more agile persons who prefer easier ways to garden.

Raised bed planters must be built but once done (depending on the materials used) they don't need to be disturbed. There are simple designs you can build yourself or get someone to help. Use preferably recycled, untreated, durable lumber or other more permanent materials.

A bed three feet wide will allow you to reach to the centre of the bed from all sides of the frame while standing or sitting. The length can be your choice depending on soil availability.

If you don't have soil, purchase it sifted. It should not be from agricultural land and of good quality. Make use of the compost from the Marsh Folly Composting facility.

Gardening can change your life and prospects but you have to give it a chance to work. Make health your number one priority; your survival may depend on it.

To see the full Health Disparity Survey (thankfully written in clear simple, non-technical language) go to http://www.bhec.bm/resources/health-statistics-information/

Persons interested in a Raised Bed Planter workshop or gardening classes e-mail franceseddy@logic.bm

A wooden raised bed should be made of durable 2” x 2” boards lined with heavy plastic. No wood needed on the bottom.
African keyhole garden good for water limited areas. For instructions go to: http://www.texascooppower.com/texas-stories/nature-outdoors/keyhole-gardening
Bricks for this bed are available locally and do not require building  skills.

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Published October 03, 2013 at 2:55 pm (Updated October 03, 2013 at 2:55 pm)

Elevated garden beds: A healthy choice for the overweight

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