Have you said this is the year you’ll finally start a garden? Whether to simply keep busy, save money, a desire to teach kids where their food comes from, or just for its value as a relaxing hobby, people are understanding the importance and practicality of gardening.
In addition to being an inexpensive source of fresh, local produce and an enjoyable way to stay busy, gardening also provides many important health benefits. Here’s a look at just a few of the ways gardening can keep you healthy.
1. You Can Actually Get Exercise
Though it may not look a lot like going to the gym, gardening is actually great exercise. Planting, digging, watering, weeding, mulching, and harvesting are all very physical activities. All of the lifting, crouching, and pushing can build strength, improve muscle tone, increase flexibility, burn calories, and raise your metabolism heart rate. Do that enough — doctors recommend at least half an hour of moderate exercise per day — and you can be sure you’re getting your daily allotment.
2. It’s Nature’s Stress Relief
Most hobbies we engage in are relaxing (unless, of course, your hobby is skydiving) and we do them because they help us forget the stresses of everyday life and make us feel good. The good news is that feeling good may not be as frivolous as you may think. Chronic stress can contribute to a whole host of health problems, including depression, diabetes, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, anxiety disorders, ulcers, cancer, and even gum disease. In fact, as many as 90% of doctor’s visits are for symptoms that may have been prevented with lower stress levels. Regularly engaging in activities that you enjoy lowers stress, which can help your body to function better. Gardening can help to lower blood pressure, decrease triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, improve chronic health conditions, and generally make you feel better. Plus you can do it by yourself as a way to keep busy in this time of social distancing.
3. It’s A Constant Source of Nutrition
Of course, nobody would bother to garden if it weren’t for the ultimate benefit: all of that fresh, delicious, homegrown produce. Growing a garden can inspire the whole family to eat healthier. After all, what could be more exciting than sinking your teeth into a garden fresh tomato, knowing that you worked so hard on those plants all summer long?
On top of that, local vegetables are more nutritious than vegetables shipped from across the country. Vegetables begin losing nutrients as soon as they are picked. The longer they sit around between when they are picked and when they reach your table, the more nutrients they lose. When you grow food in your own backyard, you know it’s as fresh as it can possibly be. In fact, in many cases, you can even wait to harvest your garden vegetables until right before you’re ready to use them. What could be fresher than that?
5. It’s A Great Teaching Tool
Gardening with kids is a great way to get picky eaters excited about eating vegetables. Even the most finicky kids will be hard-pressed to resist some broccoli or spinach that they grew themselves. Children are naturally curious about the world, and love doing anything hands-on. By getting them gardening early, you’ll create lifelong gardeners, and healthy eaters.
Whether you have a massive yard with room for rows and rows of lettuce, beans, and heirloom cucumbers, or a small fire escape garden with a few window boxes full of herbs and a washtub for tomatoes, get gardening this spring for your health!