Surprising Health Benefits

Relaxation, fitness, family fun, delicious food—sounds like a dream vacation at an all-inclusive resort. But believe it or not, this can all be found in a simple backyard garden. Gardening supplies a total-body workout, allows us to reap what we’ve sowed, and provides an opportunity to reconnect with nature and our loved ones. So grab a shovel and get out there!

A great way to spend time in nature, increase physical exercise, and promote mental health is as close as our gardens. Throw in pesticide-free fresh fruits and veggies at harvest time, filled with health-promoting antioxidants, fibre, and great taste, and we’ve got no reason not to get our hands dirty. Start digging.

Get physical

No matter our age, gardening is an excellent way to boost physical activity. It can help

  • strengthen bones, muscles, and joints
  • improve our ability to do daily activities
  • prevent falls among older adults by improving balance
  • improve mental health and outlook
  • decrease lifestyle diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers
  • promote longer, healthier lives

Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly can have a big effect on our lives. That’s where gardening comes in. Unlike many everyday activities that only involve the arms, gardening uses the whole body as we move around digging, planting, weeding, and watering. If we choose an exercise we like and that’s convenient for our lifestyle, we’re more likely to do it. And we can eat the results.

Get nutritious

If we are what we eat, growing our food can make us better. Why? Gardening allows us to choose organic fertilizers and natural pesticides. It also gives us the opportunity to harvest foods at their peak, allowing them to accumulate nutrients that might otherwise be lost when foods are picked unripe for easier shipping. Plus, when we put the effort into choosing, growing, and harvesting our own fruits and vegetables, we’re likely to eat more of them.

Get relaxed

Hectic work schedules and a constant use of electronic gadgets often allow us to tune out what’s around us. Gardening connects us to nature and the rhythm of life. By forcing us to slow down, it teaches us to live in the here and now. We may not have time to take long nature walks, but we can spend a little time in our gardens. Just viewing a garden can have positive psychological benefits.

Stress is hard on the body, causing irritability, headaches, stomach aches, and heart attacks while worsening pre-existing conditions. Nature and gardening can help. In one experiment, researchers compared outdoor gardening to indoor reading for stress relief. Gardening won hands-down by significantly reducing cortisol levels and improving mood.

Other studies of older adults indicate horticultural therapy and garden settings might lessen stress, as well as reduce pain, improve attention, decrease the need for medication, and reduce falls.

Still more studies point to the benefits of gardening to help people in a r