There’s just something about digging in the dirt that does a body good. From the physical to the spiritual, gardening has plenty of great health benefits that can’t be ignored.
1. Gardening is Ultimate Stress Relief
Getting outside and doing something productive for your family, like raising a garden, or even just caring for a few plants, is great stress relief. Recent studies have even suggested that gardening can fight stress better than other leisure activities. Time spent in the garden is usually free from other distractions like buzzing cell phones and email. You’re able to stop and focus on just one task at a time – and that’s good for your body and soul.
2. Gardening Leads to Improved Mental Health and Brain Health.
Spending time outside in the garden is also good for your mental health. Increased exposure to fresh air and sunshine can improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression or despair. In fact, one of the best ways to get the critical amounts of Vitamin D your body needs is to get outside and soak up the sunshine.
Studies are also showing that exposure to beneficial bacteria found in the soil can actually help promote mental health and wellbeing. This specific strain of bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, is said to trigger the release of serotonin, which helps elevate your mood and at the same time, decreases anxiety. As if that wasn’t enough, this little bacterium has also been found to improve cognitive function and possibly even treat cancer and other diseases. Gardening is nature’s natural anti-depressant!
New research also suggests that gardening can lower your risk of developing dementia. Two studies following people in their 60s and 70s found that gardeners had up to a 47 percent lower risk of dementia, even with other negative health factors taken into account. And, for those people who were already experiencing signs of dementia, time spent in the garden seemed to be a very therapeutic activity – promoting calmness, relaxation and helping reduce overall stress.
Many hospitals, hospices and rehab facilities offer their patients “healing gardens” where they can simply spend time among beautiful flowers and plants. The link between the garden and the mind isn’t fully understood, but we know gardens promote health and healing. Feeling a bit blue, sidetracked or unfocused? Get out in the garden!
3. Gardening is Great Exercise.
While you’re working in the garden, you’re burning some serious calories and getting the blood pumping in your body. In fact, serious gardeners will tell you that working out in their garden is better than any gym workout or aerobic exercise. (Just a thought – how many farmers do you know with gym memberships?)
As with any exercise, the amount of calories you will burn will vary based on your activity level. You’ll burn more if you’re hauling dirt and digging holes. You’ll burn less clipping weeds, but all of the exercise you attain from gardening is beneficial to the body. Tending to the garden is a great low-impact exercise option for many people.
An added benefit of using gardening as a key part of your exercise regimen is that you’re more likely to stick with it long term. Gardening rewards you with produce and flowers. Exercise itself can become tedious and even boring – but with gardening, there’s always an added benefit!
4. Gardening Promotes Good Nutrition.
The bottom line is this: People who grow their own food are more likely to eat better. The food you grow in your garden is just about the freshest, most healthy food you can possibly eat. So it’s no surprise that studies show gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their non-gardening peers.
Do you want to get your kids to eat better? Involve them in the family gardening efforts. The more time they spend outside with you tending to the garden, the more likely they are to try new foods. Let them help you cook and prepare the meals, too. Just participating in the whole process makes them more likely to try new fruits and vegetables!
5. Gardening Has Many Spiritual Benefits.
Spending time outside in the garden will also boost your spiritual health. There’s just something about being outside among nature to boost your spirits and heal your soul. The sights, sounds and the smells of the garden all reflect something bigger than ourselves. Personally, I do some of my best thinking out in my garden. I also use my time in the garden to pray and ponder some of life’s important questions.
It’s time to get started…
So whether it’s growing a few tomato plants on your porch or a full kitchen garden in your backyard, there are plenty of health reasons why all of us should be gardening more. What are you waiting for? Let’s get gardening and get healthier in 2014!