Gardening is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind and overall health. It’s also an excellent way to get outdoors with the kids over the summer. Here are eight reasons to start digging and planting:
- You’ll have easy access to fresh produce. Vegetables are at their most nutritious right out of the garden. In addition, by growing your own food, you limit your exposure to chemicals and preservatives used when food is shipped long distances.
- Gardening is a workout. Vigorous gardening for 45 minutes roughly equates to a 30-minute aerobic workout.
- Gardening is terrific for kids. From planning to planting to watching seeds grow into vegetables, flowers or fruits, gardening is a great way to learn about science and where food comes from. It also promotes teamwork and forges a closer connection with nature. And besides, playing in the dirt is fun!
- Kids who garden also eat more vegetables. Hands-on gardening programs have a huge impact on children’s health. Case in point: In Idaho, sixth-graders who participated in a school garden project for 12 weeks considerably increased their daily intake of fruits and vegetables after the project was completed. They weren’t just eating the literal fruits of their labor, but also choosing more fruits and vegetables at home and in restaurants.
- Working in a garden is great for hand strength and flexibility. This is particularly important for older people who might be experiencing diminished dexterity. Pulling out weeds, trimming plants, moving dirt by hands: all these activities mimic exercises that physical therapists recommend to improve hand strength.
- Gardening is good for your brain and is linked to a reduced risk of dementia. A study out of Australia showed that daily gardening can reduce an older person’s risk for dementia by more than 35%. In London, doctors have begun prescribing gardening as kind of preventive therapy.
- Gardening reduces stress. Getting outside, digging in the dirt and having the satisfaction of watching plants grow has some serious benefits when it comes to stress reduction. Scientists in the Netherlands, in fact, conducted a study that showed people who gardened had significantly reduced cortisol levels (stress hormone).
- Gardening is a mood booster.Getting outside and working with plants can have an enormous impact on one’s sense of well-being. A study coming out of Texas A&M and Texas State universities asked older adults to rate their “zest for life,” their sense of optimism and overall fortitude. The researchers found that gardeners had significantly higher scores in all those areas than non-gardeners.
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