Gardening For Your Health
Gardening has so many health benefits, both emotionally and physically. Even if you think you don’t have a green thumb, there are plenty of plants that require little care other than you spending time outside (or inside). Our staff here at NeighborWorks of Western Vermont all enjoy gardening to some extent, be it large perennial and vegetable gardens or caring for houseplants and pots of herbs on the kitchen counter. Not only does gardening have a positive impact on you, but it also keeps a house healthy and vibrant – something to think about if selling your home is a thought for the future. Gardens don’t have to be big to see the benefits of them, even a few pots of tomatoes, herbs, and flowers on your steps could give you the same effects! Here are some amazing health benefits that you could receive by having a garden.
Reduce Stroke Risk
A study done by the American Heart Association shows that gardening keeps your heart healthy and you in better shape. Other studies have shown that gardening could extend your lifespan by up to 30% as it keeps you motivated and moving – one of the biggest ways to reduce heart disease!
Many gardeners feel that being among plants is peaceful and a stress reducer. Now there is research to back that up! A recent Dutch study showed that after just 30 minutes of gardening, people reported being in better moods AND had lower levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone. Don’t have your own garden? Take a stroll through a local park or community garden and you can have the same results. Even clipping a few sprigs of basil from your windowsill garden or planting arranging flowers in a vase can have a mood-boosting effect.
Reduce Risk of Dementia
Gardening on a regular basis has been found to reduce your risk of Dementia. It is the repetitive physical activity associated with gardening that involves fine motor skills (think weeding or picking peas) that can keep your brain going. For someone with dementia, it can improve attention to details, lessen stress and alleviate agitation that can all relax the person and help trigger memory recall.
Strengthens Immune System
Gardening involves the outdoors, and that means soaking up some sunshine (don’t forget to use sunblock though)! Being in the sun helps you soak up vitamin D – a powerful defense against colds. Vitamin D keeps your bones strong. Kids that play in the dirt have been found to have a much higher defense against common colds and have more of the “good germs” that keeps their immune system balanced.
Better Than The Gym
Gardening for just one hour makes your body burn around 330 calories! Not only is it a good workout, but you are also enjoying nature instead of being in a gym. It is also a great way to burn off some frustration! Pulling weeds, digging in the dirt, and lifting pots of plants gets your endorphins flowing all while working off some pounds! For people with arthritis, all that digging, planting and pulling can help increase your hand strength – just don’t overdo it if it becomes painful.
Confidence Booster and Sleep-Aid
Gardening can boost your self-esteem simply because you know that you have cared for and grown those plants. Having a vegetable garden is especially beneficial as you have an increased sense of well-being and a sense of satisfaction when you eat and cook with the foods you have grown. Watching your plants grow and thrive will give you confidence and self-assurance. The physical activity you exert when gardening will also help you sleep better!
Good For You Food
Since you’re growing your own food, your diet is bound to be a little healthier. Studies show that you are more likely to eat vegetables if you grew them yourself. All that sweat, time and energy gives you a sense of ownership and a connection to your food. This is especially true for kids – if they grew it, they are more likely to eat it! Even the pickiest eaters will want to try some of their own homegrown carrots! Fruits and vegetables are one of the highest-priced goods in your grocery store. Growing your own is much more economical – a great reason to put in an extra tomato plant or two!
Not only does gardening give us a profound connection to the land, but it also inspires us to do other things and be more healthy. It has an impact on our health, our mood, and our connections with other individuals. We feel that the simple acts of gardening can mean a bigger impact on our community. If the word gets out about how good gardening is for us all, the more positive changes can happen in our society. We hope if you don’t garden already, you will consider starting one soon! Check with your local UVM Extension Office, they often have gardening tips or can connect you with clubs and other gardeners. Fall may be around the corner, but it is also the perfect temperature to plant lettuce, kale, and beets!
Authors Bailey Aines, part-time employee and Svea Howard, communications and outreach coordinator.