Health Brief: Gardening
Gardening can improve your health, save you money and improve your well-being.
Digging, planting and pulling up weeds – just about anyone can perform these simple tasks and reap the rewards. The benefits of gardening extend beyond the obvious (a source of fresh, healthy produce) and can provide additional perks like improved physical and mental health. Here are a few benefits that can be harvested by you and your family:
A Source of Exercise
While enjoying yourself in the garden, you might not even notice that you are working all your major muscle groups: arms, shoulders, legs, core, butt and back. Routine gardening tasks engage these muscles helping you to build strength and burn calories.
Spending and hour among you plants performing general gardening activities can burn you upwards of 250 calories. Kick it up a notch and spend that hour digging and weeding and you’ll shed as many as 350 calories!
Similar to weight training – lifting bags of mulch, pushing wheelbarrows or lawnmowers and shoveling provide resistance training; which leads to healthier bones and joints with minimal jarring and stress on the body. Plus, in exchange for all your effort you may even end up with some fresh peppers!
Just getting outside and soaking up the sunshine can perk you up and satisfy your need for Vitamin D, which will automatically improve your mood. Plus, having your own beautiful spot you can retreat to for meditation and relaxation can be soothing in itself.
If you need further proof, a recent study from the Netherlands showed that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing activities like reading. After being put through a stressful task, individuals were instructed to either read inside or garden outside for 30 minutes. The gardening group not only reported being in a better mood – they also had lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) present in their blood stream.
A Nutrition Provider
The freshest food you can eat is the food you grow yourself. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that gardeners eat more produce than their peers. And if you are the parent of picky eaters, grab a shovel, studies of after-school gardening programs indicate that children who garden are more likely to eat fruits and veggies and try new produce.
Growing your own food also gives you the power to choose exactly how it grows. If you are concerned about pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers you can make the decision to not treat your crops.
On average Americans throw out about $600 worth of food every year. You may not bat an eye throwing out a mealy apple you paid $0.75 for, but it is a lot harder to do when it’s that perfect tomato you patiently watched grow for so long. When it’s “your’s” there is a much better chance that you will eat it before it goes to waste.
Plus you’ll get to watch your grocery bill shrink as you begin to stock your kitchen with fruits and veggies fresh from your backyard. Seeds are inexpensive (an entire packet can cost less than a dollar) and can provide you an entire season of fresh produce.
Want to go for bonus points? Learn how to dry, can, or otherwise preserve your harvest and you’ll be able to feed yourself even when the season has ended.
So what are you waiting for? Grab some gloves and dig in!