Beyond Veggies: Why Gardening Is Good for You

Really, Well & Wise, again?  First you you try to sell us on the health benefits of poetry, now gardening? Not buying it.

Dear, skeptical reader, do not scoff. Where poetry’s benefits may be harder to pinpoint, mostly improving mental health, gardening can make you feel better on the inside and look better on the outside. We all know that the “fruits” of one’s gardening labors can often be employed in healthful meals, but there is more to it than that.

Take for example the book, Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness: Exercise plans, Injury Prevention, Ergonomic Designs by Bunny Guinness.

By aussiegall [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Guinness, a gardening designer, worked with physiotherapist Jacqueline Knox to create step-by-step movements based on Pilates and illustrate safe ways to perform strenuous garden-related tasks, such as pushing wheelbarrows, lifting pots, and picking crops/plants–ways that boost fitness while avoiding strain and injury. The book also provides real and effective gardening techniques requiring different exertion levels; planting designs for time-pressed gardeners; garden maintenance regimes to stay active; and, of course,  a comprehensive guide to growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs to help maintain a healthful diet.

And, even without the book, you can still enjoy the benefits of gardening.  According to Next Avenue, “this hobby offers direct health benefits to avid and casual gardeners alike. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labels gardening ‘moderate cardiovascular exercise.’ Former National Gardening Magazine editor Dan Hickey says that according to studies he has participated in, 45 minutes of gardening can burn as many calories as 30 minutes of heart-healthy aerobics.”

They go on to say that National Institute of Health recommends 30 to 45 minutes of gardening three to five times a week and you can even benefit by breaking up the time into smaller portions. “And the cherry on top: Research shows that gardeners have an increased zest for life, sleep better, have a lowered risk for osteoporosis and diabetes….”  Next Avenue even references a  study, that suggests gardening can improve your sex life.

Discovery Health emphasizes the practicality of gardening for health: “Local gardening, and the resulting local food communities, may hold even more answers to the economic and health care disasters we currently face. With obesity now seen as an epidemic in developed nations, gardening represents a good source of physical activity….” Discovery Health sites how gardening can encourage kids to try a greater range of fruits and veggies and promote mental health (through relaxation and satisfaction and better nutrition) as well as physical healthThey also discuss how gardening has been linked to preventing dementia in seniors; allows for more whole foods, in place of processed options; and provides extra food and savings for the family, as well as income if sold at local farmers markets.

If you still feel like you’re just not the gardening type, rest assured–you don’t have to go out and buy loads of fancy equipment and start ordering all the latest seed catalogs to take advantage of all gardening has to offer.  You can start small.  Maybe check out a book like Gardening In Your Nightie: What Every Passionate Gardener Should Know But Never Dared to Ask to get things explained in plain language and an entertaining fashion.  Or you can stop by and chat with some experts at one of HCLS Master Gardener classes.

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