10 health benefits of gardening

Gardening

Victoria Day weekend is right around the corner. This is the time when we Canadians collectively cross our fingers that frosty evenings are over so we can get outside to start planting. There are tons of incentives (economic, environmental and otherwise) for growing your own garden, but it’s also extremely healthy. Here are some great reasons to spend some time in the dirt.

1. You’ll lose weight.

Although it doesn’t feel like a workout, in an hour of gardening a 150-pound woman will burn about 270 calories. And because your garden requires regular attention, it will keep you to a good exercise schedule.

2. You’ll work your muscles.

Digging in the dirt can tone your thighs, hoeing can strengthen your upper body and balancing yourself as you weed or prune can work your core. There’s all kinds of resistance training built into gardening. But be careful for muscle strain: Try to break your gardening into chunks of 30 to 60 minutes to avoid overexerting yourself and change tasks or positions often to avoid muscle soreness the next day.

3. You’ll eat fresher, more nutritious foods.

As soon as fruits and vegetables are picked, they’re usually at their most nutritious. Spending days on a truck, at your grocery store and then in your fridge can cause a ton of nutrient loss. According to one study, depending on the storage temperature, spinach can lose half of its folate content in four days. Harvesting food fresh from the garden ensures the nutrients are still fresh and available.

4. You’ll eat organic.

When gardening at home, you know exactly what goes into the ground. Choose organic seeds, avoid pesticides and weed by hand. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that there are no harmful chemicals on the shiny red skin of those tomatoes.

5. You’ll encourage your kids to eat fresh foods.

Many school programs have found that kids are more likely to eat vegetables that they’ve had a hand in growing. Get kids involved in the gardening process. Once they’ve done the work of planting those seeds or watering those carrots, they’ll be much more likely to try the harvested veggies.

6. You’ll turn vegetables into convenience foods.

Many of our unhealthy eating choices are made when we’re in a pinch. There are no groceries in the house so you have to order pizza, right? But when you’ve got a garden full of fresh food in your backyard, there are always healthy choices at your fingertips. Pick some veggies, fire up the barbecue and you have a simple summer meal.

7. You’ll benefit from being in nature.

Even aside from the benefits of good, clean fresh air, nature has healing powers. There are endless studies on the healthful effects of spending time in nature. Patients recovering from surgery who are exposed to nature and trees heal faster; others have experienced an improvement in blood pressure after viewing natural landscapes.

8. You’ll boost your mood.

While studies have shown that getting active in nature—no matter what you’re doing—is enough to boost your mood, gardening specifically has also been known to ease stress.

9. You’ll get vitamin D.

When you’re out in the garden, you’re getting a healthy dose of vitamin D. If you’re in direct sun or spending long periods outdoors, you’ll want to remember to wear a hat and cover up with a good SPF, but a little bit of sun exposure is a healthy thing. That vitamin D protects your bones, your immune system and also helps keep you in that good mood.

10. You’ll spread the health.

Once you plant a garden, it just keeps on giving. By the time the last week of August rolls around, you’ll find yourself spreading fresh produce (maybe even seeds) to friends and neighbours because you just can’t use it all.

Learn the five healing plants you need in your garden.

(Photography: Thinkstock)