I like gardening. There is something about playing in the soil, and seeing beautiful plants arise from it that is very satisfying. The new growth and the bright colors energize me. I even like to weed. I find it relaxing, as long as it does not entail really big weeds or using a large tool of any sort. I like the kind where the ground is moist from recent rains, and the weeds are fairly small, and all I need is a pair of gloves and a bucket to throw the weeds into.
At the house we moved out of in January, there were seven garden areas, some quite large. I always started the spring gung-ho, weeding and getting the gardens spiffed up, and quickly lost steam as the size of the task loomed up before me.
Our new apartment has two garden areas, one is 19' x 3', the other 10' x 3'. I can manage this. One is full sun, the other partial sun. They are brick-enclosed planter boxes, raised up a little so they will be easier to work in. They were built last week, and on Saturday, we had 4 tons of limestone delivered. (Some we spread in the bottom of the two boxes to help with drainage, the rest is surrounding one of the boxes. My husband wanted stone so he wouldn't have to mow more grass.) I am right now waiting for the phone call telling me that the planting soil is on its way. It is supposed to be delivered this morning. As I told a friend, we got stoned last week, today we will get soiled.
According to About.com gardening can be considered moderate level exercise, depending on the tasks you do. I think the gardening I do would be lower level exercise, because I try to avoid lifting bags of mulch and anything else of that level of strenuousness. My body does not accept that kind of activity anymore. This past week I have been pushing the limits, and my body is pushing back. I don't mind the muscle achiness that comes from physical work, that feels healthy. It is the nagging tug in my elbow tendon, reminding me that I tend (no pun intended ) to get tendinitis at the drop of a hat that got me to stop. I recently got an injection in that elbow that healed tendinitis I had had for seven months, I don't want to go back there.
Besides providing exercise, gardening also provides many other benefits. Being out in the sun and fresh air feels good (I know there are people with Sjogren's Syndrome, Lupus, and other conditions who are super sun sensitive. I will address that in a minute.) In order to produce vitamin D, I have read that you should expose your skin to the sun for 15 minutes a day without sunscreen. Then put the sunscreen on. Gardening is also a great stress reliever, and just think of those nice, juicy, fresh picked tomatoes (or roses, if you prefer).
The Arthritis Foundation has 4 pages of articles on gardening with arthritis, with lots of tips for making things easier and safer for folks like us. Among the ideas are container gardening, the containers can be placed on a table for easier reach. If you are unsure how much you can do, start with one container, you can always add more. There are ergonomically designed tools which are easier to handle. Before you start gardening, or any other physical activity, warm up and stretch, and take frequent rest and stretch breaks as you work. For folk swho can't tolerate sun, there are some plants that thrive in the shade. My favorite are coleus. They have an incredible variety of leaf shapes and colors, they fascinate me.