INCORPORATING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTO THE MASTER GARDENER TRAINING PROGRAM G. Murza and E. Pabon, UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL. & J. Anderson and A. Vu, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, Orlando, FL.
Situation: The Master Gardener Program (MG) is a volunteer organization comprised of individuals who have an interest in gardening and preserving natural resources. To become a MG volunteer in Osceola and Orange Counties, participants are required to attend a 13-week training, usually held from September through December. The training program consists of lectures, field trips, and hands-on activities. Participants sit for long periods of time during lectures and have asked for opportunities to be active throughout the day. Therefore, the MG coordinators reached out to the FCS Agents to develop and provide exercise sessions that could be incorporated into the training program. The objectives are: 1) 50% will report learning exercises that help minimize pain and discomfort, 2) 50% will report feeling more awake and engaged in the training, and 3) 50% will report incorporating water and stretch breaks while gardening. Methods: Fifteen-minute weekly sessions were scheduled between lectures or around lunchtime. Six sessions each were held in Orange and Osceola Counties. Exercises focused on muscle groups related to gardening or gardening activities. Agents provided alternative movements for those who were not able to perform the particular exercise. A retrospective pre/post questionnaire was given at the end of the training program. Results: An average of 40 individuals participated in each session; 31 completed the questionnaire. 81% reported learning exercises to help minimize pain and discomfort (pre: 48%), 71% reported feeling more awake and engaged in the training (pre: 39%), and 65% reported taking more stretch and water breaks while gardening (pre: 26%). Conclusion: Providing opportunities for movement during the training helps volunteers focus throughout the day and equips them with tools to practice safe and frequent movements to minimize pain while gardening. With such a positive response, exercise will become a permanent addition to these county’s MG training program.