Mine grows vertically in a 5 ft. seemingly space-age Tower that takes up just 3 ft. of ground. You may have a plot of ground in your back yard, or a kitchen window herb garden. Regardless of how you do it, gardening is good for your physical, mental and brain health – and there is science to prove this is true!
Squatting down to pull weeds, bending over to plant a seed and twisting your torso to work the soil around plants all help with strength, stamina, flexibilty and work the small muscles in the body.. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention you can burn about 330 calories doing one hour of light gardening and yard work. That’s more than walking at a moderate pace for the same amount of time.
Exposure To Vitamin D
Also, being outside provides more exposure to vitamin D, which helps your bones absorb calcium, boosts your immune system and contributes to better mental health.
Lower Risk Of Dementia And Improved Brain Health
An Australian study followed close to 3,000 people for 16 years in order to understand what lifestyle factors contributed to dementia. Physical activity, in particular gardening, could lower future risk of dementia by 36%.1
Gardening uses many repeated actions, such as weeding or removing dying flowers from a plant, that have a calming effect on the brain. The brain is still active, but not in the same way that it is when we use, say computers.
Aside from brain health, daily gardening contributes to improved mental health. It helps relieve stress, and has been shown to be even more relaxing than reading. A recent study in the Netherlands had participants complete a difficult and stressful task. They were then told to go indoors and read, or go outdoors and garden. The gardening group reported better moods afterwards and blood tests revealed lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Scientists say that high levels of cortisol in the body interfere with learning and memory. It also can increase a person’s weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, increase the risk for depression and lower life expectancy.
Possibly this is because gardening gives you the feeling that you have done something good. A flower and herb garden can help feed bees and butterflies. Growing them connects you to nature and pleases all of your senses.
Growing Your Own Food Means Healthier Eating
Growing your own food helps people develop a lasting habit of eating enough fruits and vegetables, probably because it is more accessible and it tastes better. Children who grow their own food learn to eat more fruits and vegetables. Having your own garden makes it more likely for them to try foods they may not have eaten before
Food you grow yourself is also healthier. Food purchases in grocery stores is often grown in depleted soils, picked unripe and shipped long distances.
So consider planting a garden if you are not running one now. The physical activity will do wonders for your fitness levels, and simply interacting with the plants can improve your mood and mental health.
Don’t know where to start. There are plenty of guides right at your fingertips. I like “Clueless in the Garden – A Guide For The Horticulturally Helpless”. It’s available in most libraries and also on Amazon.
Or, try vertical gardening. I have been growing vertically for close to ten years. Vertical gardening doesn’t give you as much exercise because there is no tilling, weeding or getting dirty, but you still have the satisfaction of growing your own produce. It is an ideal solution for anyone without the space for a full garden and what you grow looks, smells and tastes really good.
Best of all, it can be moved indoors in the winter so you can have fresh vegetables all year.
1 Simons, Leon A, et al. “Lifestyle Factors and Risk of Dementia: Dubbo Study of the Elderly.” Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 184, no. 2, 2006, pp. 68–70. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006. tb00120.x.
Liz Davis is a Pole Walking Instructor who writes about simple ways to stay healthy and slow down the aging process.
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