As hobbies go, few pastimes are more rewarding and beneficial than gardening. Cultivating a green thumb won’t just yield a bounty of homegrown treats: it also offers up a bumper crop of physical and mental health benefits. For this week’s Wellness Wednesday, we look at the different ways you can harvest personal growth from gardening.
A major benefit of gardening is getting to spend time outside. Gardening is a great way to get your daily dose of natural sunlight; even just 10-15 minutes of tending your garden is enough time to stimulate the production of vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D helps our bodies reduce inflammation, combat infections, maintain bone density, and studies have shown that it can even reduce cancer cell growth.
You might not think of gardening as exercise but consider how physically active it can be. You have to engage all kinds of different muscle groups as you bend, dig, plant, rake, and weed your garden. Gardening can help improve mobility, build endurance, and develop muscles. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an hour of gardening can burn at least 330 calories—which is comparable to what you would burn golfing or dancing in the same length of time.
The combination of cardio and vitamin D from gardening outdoors has also been shown to be good for heart health. Gardening can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and increase oxygen levels in the blood over time.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
It goes without saying that one of the biggest benefits of gardening is having access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. This is both good for your pocketbook (why go to the store when you’ve got fresh squash and citrus at home?) and good for your health. What you can grow at home is actually healthier and more nutritious for you than what you can get at the store. That’s because fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked.
Gardening provides several mental health benefits, foremost of which is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Part of that is the physical rigors of gardening relieving tension in the body, but it’s also due to the repetitive, routine nature of the activity. Routines offer a structure for our lives that can improve our mental health. It creates a relaxing rhythm for our days; no matter how chaotic our work and/or home lives can be, we know that we still have to water the plants, pick the weeds, and harvest the fruit. Studies have found that gardening can also improve our ability to concentrate and stay mentally alert over a long period of time.
Gardening may seem like a solitary activity but it’s actually a great way to build community. For one thing, a healthy garden tends to produce a LOT more food than you’d expect. Having that excess produce offers a good excuse for dinner parties and get-togethers. You can also give fruit and veggies to friends and donate them to food banks and other non-profits who can use the fruits of your labor to feed the less fortunate. If your friends also garden, you can offer to help them on occasion (which will most likely inspire them to return the favor).
Another thing to consider is that many of us are not able to maintain gardens of our own because we live in apartments or condos or other homes that don’t offer any space for gardening. This is where the benefits of community gardens come in. Find a community garden near you and volunteer your time. You’ll receive all the benefits of gardening without having to be solely responsible for the care and growth of the garden.
All that being said: you CAN garden indoors. While you lose the benefit of being outdoors, having an apartment doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t grow your own veggies and herbs. Container gardening takes a bit of work to get going but it’s a viable way of producing small but tasty bounties of fresh veggies in the comfort of your own home.
Article by Austin Brietta
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