by Jeffrey P. Restuccio
Hatherleigh Press, 2008
Review by Fran Gillespie on Sep 15th 2009
The idea that it was possible to use gardening to do all those things are good for me -- for my fitness- drew me to this book. Right at the beginning it promises a way to change your lifestyle permanently so that fitness can be attained and kept. I have known for a long time that regular exercise mitigates against depression, that a sedentary lifestyle plays a role in heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and generally increases one's lifespan. Of course a healthy diet also plays an important role but is not nearly as efficacious unless used in tandem with exercise.
As a matter of fact I think we have all had this information shoved down our throats for years. However the tide of obesity in the affluent Western world is proof positive that we choose to ignore the experts and remain in the comfort zone of our ordinary lives.
I think that is because most of us don't want to be told what is good for us and we certainly are not ready for a 'lifestyle change' that I hate exercise. And a heart attack, a knee replacement, a bout of cancer and periodic severe depression has still not encouraged me to follow an exercise regimen for longer than ten or twelve weeks. I feel guilty, I'm overweight, despite having a very healthy diet, but I'm unable to consistently do the one thing that would benefit me the most.
This book should therefore be ideal to help me to exercise regularly as I love gardening. There's a chapter on warming up and stretching, followed by one on resistance training with structures and other exercises. Ways to quantify and program the suggested exercises programs are also included. The author is emphatic that this is not a gardening book: it is an exercise book. His aim is to achieve the suggested exercises mainly with the large muscles and use the back in a balanced fashion. The favorite movements are, starting with an upright back (the stance), the classic lunge and weed, the lunge and weed across the body and variations on these.
This is an admirable book. There is even a chapter for seniors, children and special needs. However, it disappointed me. It transforms gardening so much by concentrating on fitness that for me it loses its joy. At present my knee won't let me kneel, and there is no way I would be able to follow instructions, except perhaps for the stance and the lunge and weed. As for skipping, and most of the stretches, forget it. The illustrations with young, fit bodies accented for me that I was far from either. There is a paragraph entitled Gardening with Bad Knees or a Bad Back, but the thrust of the book is for the healthy.
The writing itself is evangelical in tone. The author has been working in this area since at least 1992, when his first book, Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way, was published. He believes that most people, especially young ones, can, must and want to, become fit. Unfortunately the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and the aging population, throw serious doubt on this belief.
© 2009 Fran Gillespie
Fran Gillespie writes about herself:
I am a mental health consumer of forty years standing. My family is steeped in this experience as we have traced it through four generations I therefore have also a personal understanding of caring in this difficult area. In recent years I have moved from hiding under the blankets to giving evidence to an enquiry into the human rights of the mentally ill in Australia to spearheading an understanding of the mental health consumer as a resource in our community in Hobart, Tasmania. With the support of like-minded people a system of paid consumer consultants arose from this activism. I am at present on leave from studying for a research Masters in Medicine that centres on an analysis of the development of mental health consumerism in Tasmania. I believe that it is necessary to set aside anger generated from personal experience in this area in order to achieve lasting solutions.