Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Power of Gardening: The Perfect Hobby For Getting Healthy

The Power Of Gardening: The Perfect Hobby For Getting Healthy


By: Julie Morris
While we all want to be healthy, sometimes getting healthy is easier said than done. Eating healthy all the time can seem limiting, and preparing healthy meals can be time-consuming and tiring, especially after a long day at work. Exercising at the gym can be intimidating and trying to work out at home can get stale quickly. And if you have a chronic illness or chronic pain, there are simply some exercises and activities that are too strenuous or tiring. 

I know from experience. My fibromyalgia and the accompanying depression made tending to my physical health a chore. My grandmother suffered through similar aches and pains, but I remembered one thing that always brought her such joy and happiness was her garden. Her garden was filled with vegetables of every color, and I spent many afternoons canning in her sunny yellow kitchen. Gardening is a fun way to improve your health that you may be overlooking. Here are a few tips on how gardening can help you improve your physical and mental health: 

Community gardening is a great way to stay active and socialize 

Urban gardening has become quite popular in many areas of the country. Some families do this by growing plants in containers on their balconies or patios while others embrace community gardens. In this format, a large area of land is gardened collectively by a group of people. According to Newsmax, some research has shown that gardeners who utilize community gardens tend to be less overweight than non-gardeners.

Community gardens provide a host of benefits to those who join in to tend the space. There is a socialization aspect that can be valuable for all gardeners, and the sense of camaraderie and success that builds during gardening can be a valuable way to boost one's confidence and self-esteem. 

In fact, while I certainly get my passion for gardening from my grandmother, it wasn’t until I started working in a local community garden that I really learned the ins and outs of gardening, and gained the confidence to start my very own backyard garden. I’ve found that gardeners are always very willing to share their advice and expertise, such as using vertical gardening or raised beds to avoid wear and tear on my joints, and investing in ergonomic gardening tools. These adjustments enable me to use my garden as a place of solace and escape, as well as grow my own produce to fuel my cooking obsession.

Stress can be significantly reduced by gardening

High stress levels, which are often accompanied by poor sleep quality, can be detrimental to our physical and mental health. One great way that I’ve found to to reduce stress levels is to garden. There is just something about being outside in the fresh air and digging in the dirt that puts a smile on my face and brightens my mood. As the Conversation notes, gardening is linked to reduced feelings of fatigue and depression and greater life satisfaction. It turns out that we don't have to spend a lot of time gardening to see some improvements in our mental health. Benefits come from even moderate chunks of time spent gardening each week.

Hit the garden for a full body workout

Gardening also provides great physical exercise, making it a great fit for those who may shy away from other activities. Gardening provides a complete body workout, providing cardio along with valuable weightlifting and stretching opportunities. As you weed, dig, plant, water, and prune, you are building heart strength, endurance, and flexibility along with burning calories. The best part is that it is low impact, and easy on bones and joints, making it a great way for those with chronic pain to remain active.

Gardening is a great catalyst for healthy eating

Once you’ve nursed a cucumber or tomato plant to life, you’ll look forward to eating the fruits of your labor. Vegetable gardening can be an effective catalyst for making healthy dietary changes. Eating produce that you have grown yourself feels great and can be motivating and gardening can spark a desire to try new foods and spend more time getting creative in the kitchen.

Get a big brain boost from being in the garden

People often find that their attention to detail and ability to concentrate improves while gardening. The National explains that natural environments like gardens can have restorative qualities that improve one's problem-solving abilities and memory. The stronger and healthier you feel mentally, the better you'll be able to commit to healthy lifestyle changes. Your garden doesn’t have to be the only natural environment you escape to to relax. I often visit a local park to read and do a little bit of yoga. The surrounding area is full of shady trees and beautiful landscaping, making it a green space paradise.

There are few activities that provide as many health benefits as gardening. Tending a garden provides great physical exercise and can improve one's mental health, both of which are key to building a healthy life. Take it from me, a garden can change your life.