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Guest Blog: How Our Gardens Keep Us Healthy (And It’s Not Just The Vegetables)

February 16th, 2011

 

The need for speed. This is a maxim for those who of us who live in the information age. You may not realize, but with every impatient tap of the fingers on the desk while waiting for an email or text message, with every attempt to multi-task, you’re speeding through life. Speed is a constant source of stress, and many of us look for outlets that let us slow down, relax and enjoy life. Some people meditate, others choose running or sports, and others still maintain that gardening is the best therapy. Being more than just a verdant source of flowers, fruits and vegetables, gardening poses great physical and mental health benefits. Here are some ways that gardening improves our health:

Gardening provides exercise for preventing heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even high blood pressure through different activities required for maintenance.

    • Muscle Building Exercises

– Ever notice how, after you’ve tended to your garden, you’re sweaty and exhausted? In fact, as you reach for that glass of iced tea, you’re panting a little bit, aren’t you? Well, since gardening is a total body workout, this is to be expected. Within the many tasks involved, many different levels of exercise can be accessed through gardening. From strenuous to lighter and mellower, tending to your garden regularly can be just as effective as going to the gym.

    • Endurance and Cardio Exercises

– The weight-bearing activities involved in gardening, like carrying gallons of water, pots, plants or pushing the wheelbarrow, are not only great ways to strengthen muscle and your heart (the wheelbarrow itself is your bicep workout for the day!), they also strengthen the bones by increasing density. Because of this, gardening is a recommended workout for young people and for the elderly who are at risk of bone density loss. Extended hours of heavy gardening can increase your endurance and all the stretching, bending, and reaching necessary increases your flexibility.

Being in your garden (or around your houseplants) can be an excellent measure for reducing stress and anxiety. So, whether just enjoying yourself or doing back-breaking labor, spending time in a garden is beneficial to your mental health, too.

• The therapeutic benefits of gardening have proven to be so effective that some therapists have recommended it as a form of therapy for patients dealing with depression and anxiety. Victims of manic depression and anxiety are often asked to spend time gardening, and are encouraged to meditate, daydream, or just enjoy the beauty that surrounds them.

• Gardening has been known to help people with all sorts of problems. People who have stress because of work find great escape in the fresh air and sunshine that gardening provides.

• As we are often alone when working in our gardens, this opens the activity up to many introspective and meditative opportunities. In the end, serious gardeners tend to be optimistic people who look forward to the future with hope (for great blooms or a bountiful harvest) and have a philosophical and positive way of looking at life – embracing the imperfect, non-controlling and having endless patience.

Studies have also shown that gardening can both directly and indirectly improve our cognitive health and social skills.

• Planning a garden can be challenging in itself. A successful and thriving garden involves knowing exactly what, where, and when to plant, and this makes gardening an activity that requires plenty of planning, research, and reading every season. These aspects give you great opportunities to exercise your mind.

• While often a solitary activity, gardening can actually help with a person’s social skills because it instills a sense of accomplishment. This then helps to increase self-esteem and self-worth, making for a more pleasant and confident individual. Since confidence and heightened self-esteem make people more attractive, this makes gardeners more approachable and likeable.

• Participating in a community garden also poses positive social and interpersonal skills, as shown in a study done with students who worked in a community garden for a period of time. In a qualitative interview done with the school, teachers, and the parents of these children, it was found that community gardening encouraged children to have more positive bonding moments with adults and each other.

Beyond being good for the environment and for your diet, gardening digs deep and provides opportunities for you to be a healthier, happier individual on a physical, emotional, mental, and social level. So the next time you feel stressed or anxious, why not take a moment to breathe, and then step outside to smell and prune those roses.

About the Author:

Isabella York is a working mother who enjoys the outdoors by spending time in her garden. Along with raising her son, she works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees and Christmas Trees.

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