Gardening for better health

January 20, 2015

Another new year has arrived, and this may have you resolving to make better choices when it comes to your health.  What you may not realize is that the key may literally be right in your own backyard!

Your garden is more than a means of boosting your home’s curb appeal or a place for you to unwind on warm summer evenings. Your garden actually has the potential to help you improve and take control of your health. We all know that getting enough exercise and spending time outdoors is good for you, but what you may not know is just how important of a role your garden can play in this.

It doesn’t matter if your garden is large or limited to a tiny patio space, the time you spend with your garden can have you harvesting many things, including great health benefits. Many avid gardeners take their hobby to be an ideal antidote to the hectic world we live in, as a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things that our everyday lives don’t allow for.


Stress & Mental Health

Many of us spend our days trying to squeeze as much into our waking hours as possible; leading to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and general sense of being frazzled. Our attention is being grabbed by emails, smart phones, social media, and other work-related concerns. We’re running around after children, taking them to multiple sporting events, and attending meetings for all of the committees we serve on.

The problem is that while we may think we can handle it all, the reality is that we do have our limits. Reaching our limits may show up as becoming forgetful or making mistakes at work or at home. We may start to become irritable and quick to become angry or lose our patience with those closest to us.

Spending time in the garden tending to your perennials, fussing over your herb garden, planting bulbs for next season, an even weeding can be replenishing, invigorating, and relaxing all at the same time. These are simple ways to quiet a busy mind, unwind, shift your focus from the chaotic, and reconnect with what is important.

Gardening is a very sensory experience. While it is difficult to put it into words, there is a primal joy that comes from sinking your hands into earthy-smelling, freshly worked soil. Digging in the garden is not a substitute for taking medications or seeing a therapist, but there is the old saying that gardening is better than therapy, and you get tomatoes!


Working out your body

Let’s face it, many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle or find it almost impossible to squeeze in a trip to the gym. The good news is that just 30 minutes of spending time in your garden can help you to burn calories, tone those muscles, and soak up some Vitamin D. Gardening gets you outside where you can get fresh air inside your lungs, a healthy dose of sunshine on your skin, and get your blood moving.

Think of all of those bends and squats you can do pulling weeds or ripping out those pesky blackberries. Gardening isn’t exactly akin to pumping iron at the gym, unless you’re frequently lifting bags of mulch and soil, but it is a great way to fit some low-impact exercise into your daily routine. And there is no membership fee required.

Getting a nutritional boost

There is no fresher produce than that which you can grow yourself. Whether it’s one tomato plant, a few blueberry shrubs, or a container filled with lettuce, it all contributes toward a healthier diet. Home gardens can have a great assortment of fruits and vegetables, all of which can be grown organically and harvested right before eating which gives them a higher nutrient content that those that have taken several days traveling to your local grocery store.

Trying to get your children to eat more fruits and vegetables? Why not give them a small space in the garden, or even a small container to experiment with.  Watching a seed grow into an edible plant or one that eventually and bears sweet fruit or crunchy vegetables can be very educational for children. If they have grown it, they tend to be more likely to try it!

You don’t need acreage or a green thumb to benefit from gardening. If you have very little space or experience, you can start out with just a few houseplants, or you could even try gardening in containers. It’s a great way to get back in touch with nature, and of course is a great family activity that everyone can look forward to.


In what ways does gardening help you feel better or live a healthier life?  We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!


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