Gardening has always been a popular activity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pioneer planting crops to feed your family or a retiree cultivating a plot for your own personal satisfaction. You could live anywhere in the world, you could be young or old, a city mouse or a country mouse. Regardless of your circumstances, developing and exercising that green thumb has always been alluring to humankind.
The coronavirus, in particular, has reignited a fresh wave of interest in agricultural pursuits as individuals the world over consider how they can keep food on the table if and when supply chains sputter or grocery store stock runs low.
The Struggle Of Maintaining A Long-Term Garden
Wanting to create a garden is all well and good. However, the inherent problem that often arises is the simple fact that, once you start gardening, the patience, hard work, and long-suffering involved — often without any short-term reward — can wear you down over time.
If you’re considering starting a garden, especially in these uncertain times, it can be helpful to regularly remind yourself of all of the benefits that come with your garden. The health factors, in particular, are an excellent way to stay focused and remember why you’re striving to grow your own food by hand.
So, the next time you’re tempted to skip weeding or let the garden go a day without watering it, jog your memory with these gardening health benefits to help you stay focused on the well-cultivated straight and narrow.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Gardening is obviously a very physical activity, and doing so on a regular basis can provide a host of very tangible benefits, including the following:
Gardening Helps You Exercise
Sleep, eating, and exercise: this trio is critical to a healthy lifestyle. Obviously, gardening provides you with an opportunity to get some exercise, but the best part is, that isn’t the only benefit. You also grow food (i.e. healthy eating) and set yourself up for better sleep — as long as you don’t garden too close to bedtime.
Whether you’re clearing a new area for next year’s crops, digging up roots, plucking out weeds, carrying watering cans, harvesting fruits and veggies, or anything else, if you garden you can be sure to get some consistent exercise for months at a time.
Gardening Keeps You Agile
Gardening doesn’t just help you get some cardio. It can also keep your body in excellent shape — especially when it comes to your flexibility. The need to bend, lift, squat, and generally contort your body as you tend to your plants ensures that you remain limb-lithe over time.
Just like an athlete who must be careful how they go about their craft, though, if you’re going to garden regularly, you want to ensure that you do so the correct way. Make sure to utilize pain-free positioning as you work on your plot:
- Keep your back straight, knees slightly bent, and neck and shoulders relaxed when you’re standing.
- When you lift something, squat and use your thigh and butt muscles while keeping your back straight.
- If you need to get low for a while, don’t bend in half at your waist. Instead, kneel or even sit on a low seat and once again, try to keep your back straight.
If you observe basic principles like these and try to switch up your activities from time to time, you can avoid pain and soreness and keep your body supple as you garden.
Gardening Allows You To Spend Time Spent Outside
One of the simpler benefits of gardening is the fact that you’re in Mother Nature. Being outside has many natural, scientifically-proven health benefits. Some of these are mental (and covered further down), but a few of the physical advantages include:
- Boosting your immune system and helping protect you from threats like obesity, diabetes, and even cancer.
- Naturally lowering your blood pressure.
- Helping you manage chronic pain and reduce inflammation — especially with a gentle activity like gardening.
All of this helps underscore the fact that gardening can provide incredible physical benefits simply by helping you ditch those electronic devices, strap on some shoes or sandals, and head out the front door.
Gardening Helps With Your Diet
Another physical benefit of gardening comes from the food that you end up eating, you know, from your garden. When you are able to eat homegrown food, there are a variety of diet-related perks that kick in, such as weight loss. While fad diets are tempting, they’re often emotional traps that cut out important things like carbs and fibre in order to provide short-term results. Interestingly, a genuinely healthy diet should consist of 35% of your calories coming from grains and starchy plants. In addition, many of the best weight loss foods include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and legumes — all of which can easily be grown in your garden.
A garden also helps you with your diet since it provides an incentive to cook and eat the food that you currently have in your home. It’s already hard enough to maintain a healthy diet while you’re traveling. Even when you’re at home, though, it can still be tempting to hop in the car and head to the nearest Taco Bell rather than make something from scratch.
That’s where your garden comes in. Rather than ditching on your pantry items in favour of a tempting bag of fast food, you’re much more likely to want to eat the food that you laboriously planted, cared for, and harvested before it goes bad.
Finally, your garden can benefit your diet by simply providing you with the peace of mind that you know where your food came from. Rather than wondering if harmful pesticides or fertilizers were used, you can rest assured that the food was grown in your own backyard and only with methods that you personally condone.
Gardening Reduces Your Environmental Impact
The last physical benefit that we’ll bring up here is the concept of the environmental impact of growing your own food. Rather than racking up harmful food miles and contributing to the larger trends of food waste that plague our agricultural systems, you can grow and consume your own food within feet of your kitchen. This helps the planet which, in turn, gives you a healthier physical environment to live in.
Mental And Emotional Benefits
Along with all of the physical benefits, there is also a slew of mental and emotional benefits that come with gardening as well. These include the following:
Gardening Is A Natural Stress Reducer
Stress is a serious threat to modern humanity, and everyone is always looking for ways to artificially deal with their pent-up anxiety. However, if you have a garden, it provides a perfect organic outlet for your stressful thoughts.
We already touched on the powerful way that gardening can provide you with exercise, and it turns out that said exercise isn’t just good for your physical body, either — it also helps you reduce stress. The physical exertion of gardening helps to pump your body full of feel-good endorphins that allow you to let the daily worries just melt away, easing your mind and helping you find some tranquility in your busy schedule.
Gardens Can Provide Both Isolation And Socialization
Gardening can be a solo endeavour as well as a group activity. On the one hand, if you create a garden in your backyard, it can be an oasis of peace and serenity; a place where you can retreat after a long day and quietly tend to your crop. On the other hand, if you crave personal interaction outside of your professional life, joining a community garden can be the perfect opportunity to meet new people, strike up conversations, and bond over a shared interest.
Either way, having a garden can provide incredible mental benefits either in the form of peace and quiet or of socialization and mental stimulation, both of which are critical to a healthy lifestyle.
Gardening Enables Continuous Learning
A lot of life revolves around going through the motions. Morning routines, work activities, and maintaining a home are often dull, monotonous tasks with little chance for something new or exciting.
If you commit to a garden, though, it provides a natural opportunity to always be growing — and we’re not just talking about food here, we’re talking about personal growth, too. For instance, as you plan your garden, you may consider setting up a Hugelkultur garden or using raised beds to help with nutrients, watering, and less bending and squatting for yourself.
Or if you find that your garden is getting too much sun, you may need to provide more shade. This can lead to further research regarding putting up a fence or planting fast-growing trees that can provide a natural barrier to your garden for part of each day.
In other words, the process of refining and cultivating your garden is a perpetual opportunity to always be learning, which also can do wonders with sparking your creativity — another of the scientifically-proven natural benefits of being outside.
Gardening Can Lead To Self-improvement
Gardening is rewarding, fun, and relaxing. However, all of these facts are only true because it’s a lot of work. Gardening never comes easy. It requires incredible patience, a willingness to learn, and infinite physical labour.
As such, your garden provides a unique chance for self-improvement. If you want to have homegrown tomato sauce on your pizza or eat ripe raspberries right off the bush, you’re going to need to apply a variety of important life skills in order to achieve that goal. Foresight, planning, logistics, and patience all play into the long-term endeavor of successful gardening, leading to additional benefits as your mind and emotions mature along the way.
Gardening Cultivates Healthy Pride And A Sense of Satisfaction
Finally, having a garden can provide an immense sense of personal pride. The satisfaction that comes with successfully growing your own food is difficult to put into words and is an experience that only a veteran gardener can truly understand.
In the 21st century, most people, especially in the West, have easy access to food. But the process that goes into creating that food is often a mystery. When you tackle the question of where your food comes from by growing it yourself, it becomes one of the most rewarding activities in your life.
The Many Health Benefits Of Gardening
When gardening is brought up, it’s often in the context of saving money or finding a hobby to stay busy. However, the laundry list of physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come from gardening should always be considered as well.
From self-improvement and continual learning to regular exercise, staying agile, and regulating your diet, there’s no doubt that gardening is one of the healthiest pastimes in existence. So do your research, take some notes, and start planning out your garden now. It’s never to early to start investing in something as beneficial as cultivating your own food.