Spring is here, so let’s look at the many ways that gardening can make you healthier. Colorado University in Boulder published the first-ever randomized, controlled trial of community gardening and found that those who started gardening ate more fiber and got more physical activity, two known ways to reduce the risk of cancer and chronic disease. They also saw their subjects’ levels of stress and anxiety significantly decrease.
Obviously, you will increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, ultimately because you have them right in your backyard. Access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables can be limiting to many people in our community but having a garden provides easy and affordable access. This produce will also be more nutritious and safer for you. You can guarantee that no herbicides or pesticides are used to grow your produce. You will be able to pick your fruits and vegetables when they are ripe guaranteeing they will hold more nutrients and vitamins then the produce picked too early and shipped to grocery stores. I also know you will be eating more produce because it will taste better. Anyone who has compared the flavor of home-grown corn, melons, berries, tomatoes and really any vegetable to store bought knows what I mean!
Gardening also makes you exercise. Colorado’s study showed that gardeners increase their physical activity levels by about 42 minutes per week. Working the soil, planting and fall clean up can make you sweat. Most gardeners however spend time in their gardens almost every day doing chores like watering, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting. According to Rishi Mandel fitness coach, gardening engages all the major muscle groups, such as arms, legs, shoulders, back and abdomen. The CDC states that gardening burns as many calories as playing golf or dancing.
When you go out to work in your garden you not only physically active, but you also decrease anxiety and feel less depressed. Self-esteem is boosted. You plant your seeds, water, fertilize, weed, and protect your plants, and watch it grow. You feel a sense of great accomplishment as the plants grow and produce leading to hopefully a bountiful harvest. Gardening can give someone a sense of purpose that they lack in the day-to-day busy work schedule. Making gardening a family activity also teaches your children the value of hard work, eating healthy, and sense of self accomplishment. Many people have forgotten the value of having their children join 4H or enter home grown produce in the local fair but these opportunities still exist in our small community.
If you have never gardened before don’t be afraid to jump in. There are lots of books on gardening or articles on the internet you can access. Community gardens are active in the area where you can learn for other gardeners. Local gardeners are always willing to share their secrets and offer advice. Many local master gardeners are available for help and master gardening classes are offered every year to help you start your garden. You just need to start and every year you will learn new things to make your garden stronger and produce more.
Starting a garden can be a lifetime change to getting you and your family healthier. So, start planting those seeds!!