From fad diets and new superfoods to the latest exercise equipment, we are bombarded by promotions for products which promise amazing health benefits. However, instead of investing your hard earned cash on the latest health "miracle", you can easily improve your health by doing a few simple things. You can go for a walk, you can eat pure, unprocessed food, and you can enjoy the many health benefits of gardening.
1. Gardening Is Good Exercise
Gardening is cheaper and more enjoyable than going to the gym, and has the added bonus of fresh air and a vitamin D boost from sunshine. Remember, however, that while some sunshine is good, too much can be harmful, so avoid getting burned by wearing a hat and using sunscreen.Credit: "Brian Farrell plants" by Artaxerxes - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brian_Farrell_plants.jpg#/media/File:Brian_Farrell_plants.jpg
Gardening builds strength by working all the major muscle groups including legs, arms, buttocks, stomach, neck and back, and the frequent stretching and bending involved increases flexibility. Lifting, pushing and shoveling promotes healthy bones, and strengthens joints by providing the same resistance training benefits as weight lifting. In addition, working in the garden is a good aerobic workout without the painful joint jarring that may result from jogging or taking an aerobics class.
As with all forms of exercise you should take a few precautions. Warm up by doing some stretches before you start, and avoid damaging your back by lifting from your knees. Also, do not overdo it. Rather than trying to everything in one day, it is better to work consistently for just an hour or two each day.
How to Avoid Physical Injury While Gardening
2. Gardening Is Good For Weight Loss
Gardening burns calories1.
According to Web MD, an hour spent on heavy garden work such as moving dirt and rocks burns an average of 400 to 600 calories. Weeding and planting consume 200-400 calories per hour, while mowing the lawn uses up to 350 calories. Using non-power tools such as a push mower or hand-held clippers increases the number of calories required as well as being better for the environment.Credit: "Jardinage petits outils" by Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jardinage_petits_outils.jpg#/media/File:Jardinage_petits_outils.jpg
3. Gardening Provides Good Nutrition
Nutritionists recommend eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Consequently, people who grow food in their garden are healthier simply because they have plenty of fresh produce to eat. In addition, eating lots of high fiber garden produce is good for weight loss.
Home grown produce is also far more tasty and nutritious than store bought fruit and vegetables, which lose both flavor and nutrients in storage. Some of the produce at your local supermarket tastes stale or old because it may have traveled thousands of miles to get there after being kept in cold storage for months. Canned and frozen vegetables lose even more nutrients during processing. In contrast, garden produce is picked fresh and eaten immediately. Even home preserved produce is tastier than store canned goods. Personally, after having enjoyed home canned fruit for many years, I find store canned fruit bland and tastless.
Consequently, you garden provides a powerhouse of essential vitamins and minerals which will help to maintain good health and boost your immune system.
4. Garden Food Is Natural
The home gardener can fertilize the soil naturally with manure and compost instead of chemical fertilizers, and can minimize the use of harmful chemical sprays, or do away with them altogether.
In addition, fresh garden fruit and vegetables have none of the harmful additives, such as sodium, sugar, preservatives and artificial colors, which are found in processed food.Credit: By Gorupka from Tomaj, Slovenia (homegrown vegetables from my grandmother's garden) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
5. Gardening Is Good For Mental Health2
Many people believe that the connection to nature found in the garden has great healing power.
Personally, I find that gardening is an excellent way to escape from everyday worries, to relax, and to reduce stress. For me, gardening is a meditative activity. When I am in the garden I perform calming rhythmic tasks such as weeding and hoeing. It is also a treat for the senses. I smell the earth along with the scents of growing things. I listen to birds and buzzing insects, enjoy the visual beauty of flowers and the tactile experience of handling dirt and plants.
The strenuous physical activity involved increases levels of the feel good hormone dopamine and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It can also provide a constructive way to release anger or aggression.
As we garden we try to improve the environment around usâ€‹ by controlling invasive weeds and encouraging the growth of beautiful flowers and beneficial food plants. If you are feeling overwhelmed by life, these activities can restore your sense of self esteem and give you a feeling of control.Credit: Liam Quinn from Canada. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons Wi
As the summer evenings get longer at northern latitudes an evening working in the garden after dinner will not only burn off a few calories but is also the perfect prescription for a good night’s sleep, and may even help to cure depression.
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6. Gardening Improves Financial Well-Being3
6 Unexpected Health Benefits of Gardening- See more at: http://learn.eartheasy.com/2014/09/6-unexpected-health-benefits-of-gardening/#sthash.rvs5aILH.dpuf
When you exercise in the garden you do not have to spend money on an expensive gym membership. In addition, the health benefits you gain allow you to save money on health care and medication.
You can even reduce your grocery bill.
With current environmental problems, such as the California drought, the price of fruit and vegetables is increasing by leaps and bounds, and organic produce is even more expensive. However, a productive vegetable garden can potentially replace all your store-bought summer vegetables, and you might even be able to barter surplus produce with your neighbors. In addition, if you preserve the summer's bounty by canning or freezing you can enjoy nutritious fruit and vegetables during the winter when they are at their most expensive.
You can increase your savings by keeping costs down. Your neighbors might be willing to give or trade seeds as well as cuttings from fruit bushes, perennial plants and herbs. You can also save your own seeds, or grow plants from supermarket produce. Another way to keep costs down is to feed your soil naturally rather than buying chemical fertilizer. You should definitely compost your kitchen waste, and also look for sources of free or cheap manure, perhaps from a local stable or poultry farm.
You don't need a huge backyard to benefit from gardening. If your garden is small you can still enjoy the health benefits of working outside and save a little money by growing vegetables that produce well in small spaces. For example, potatoes are really cheap and take a lot of room, but beans are more expensive and you can grow a lot in a small space, so in a small space it obviously makes more sense to grow beans rather than potatoes.
If you do not have a back yard you can still connect with nature by planting in containers or hanging baskets on your patio or sundeck. If you do not have a sundeck or patio, you can even try growing food plants indoors.Credit: "The WindowFarms Project (Drainage) @ MakerFaire" by Andrew Plumb - Flickr: The WindowFarms Project (Drainage) @ #MakerFaire New York City. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_WindowFarms_Project_(Drainage
Without a doubt, by providing both physical and mental health benefits, gardening feeds both the body and the soul.