13 Reasons Gardening is Good for Your Health

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From Nature Deficit Disorder diagnoses, to physicians giving Park Prescriptions, more of us are learning that spending too much time sitting at workstations under fluorescent lights is bad for us. There are solid reasons why you miss recess.

Our health is more than simply one thing. A good diet, physical exercise, solid relationships, emotional clarity and self-esteem, as well as meaningful job, all work together to help us fight illness and stay healthy. Gardening ticks every box.

Gardening Pumps You Up

Man putting shovel into the ground in the fall

It has been said that the best exercise is the one you want to do. Gardening is exercise cleverly disguised as a hobby. Working in the garden can help you burn up to 300 calories per hour while also improving your mobility, strength, and dexterity.
Gardening also strengthens your immune system, preventing illnesses such as the common cold.
Being outside in the sun helps you meet your daily vitamin D requirement, which is essential for bone health. Digging, hauling, pushing, pulling, and squatting are all physical weight bearing exercises that keep bones strong.

Exercise will tire you out and improve your sleep at night. 

You Eat More Nutritious Foods

A child holding a bunch of nutritious fruits and vegetables harvested from the garden

Growing your own food is one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening. Not only is a  a sun-warmed tomato fresh from the garden delicious, it is also at its nutritional peak.
Within three days of harvest, vegetables lose 30% of their nutritional value. Fresh vegetables from your garden, eaten immediately after harvest, contain more vitamins and minerals than produce from the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Freshly harvested vegetables are also at their peak of flavor. The more delicious the vegetables, the more you want to eat!

Gardening is Good for Your Soul

Three statues in a japanese garden with moss in the background

The sense of awe that comes from watching a tiny seed grow into 1001 zucchinis, the sound of birdsong, the drone of insects, and the smell of fresh air all lift our spirits and can brighten a bad day.
Most gardeners find that spending time in the garden is relaxing, allowing them to slow down and get into “the zone.” Some people consider the garden to be an ideal place for prayer and meditation.
Gardening can be used to practice mindfulness. While we are present in the moment, it reminds us of the past and gives us hope for the future.

Gardening Clears Your Head and Reduces Stress

A woman is peacefully raking a zen garden to reduce stress

Head out to the garden if you need some peace and quiet or just a few moments to yourself. Take several deep breaths. Feeling a little irritated? Get angry and tear those thistles out, or dig out that dead shrub. Dealing with a difficult issue? Pruning the rose bushes should be done with care. Need to sit for a minute? Take a look at a bumblebee at work.

You get the picture. A garden can transport you away from your problems, and when you return, your mind is calmer and your focus is sharper.

Gardening Helps Your Mental Outlook

A happy male gardener is smiling and holding pruning scissors

We are happier when we have something to look forward to. We become more open and less inclined to dwell on our stresses and worries when we have responsibilities for living things. Caring for a goldfish or a potted plant can also provide us with a sense of self-worth.
A garden provides opportunities for creativity and education, as well as achievement and reward. Even if you believe you have failed, a garden can be productive.
Garden failures occur even among professionals, and sharing your dead plant stories with other gardeners will result in knowing nods and a sense of camaraderie. After all, you realize you’re not such a failure!

Gardeners Benefit from Sunshine

A woman is sitting in the middle of a lawn, smiling, and taking in the sun

Many songs have been written about the joys of a sunny day, and we all know how dreary, cloudy days can ruin a good mood. You can buy full spectrum lights (which are a godsend for people suffering from Seasonal Adjustment Disorder), or you can simply go outside and enjoy some sunshine.
Over the last few decades, sunlight has earned a bad reputation. While excessive sun exposure can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, and the National Institute of Health all recommend spending 10 to 30 minutes in the sun a few times per week. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has been linked to stronger bones and lower blood pressure.
Sunlight also increases serotonin, a chemical that regulates many of our body functions such as sleep, brain function, and gut health. Serotonin is also known to help with mood stabilization.

Gardening Fights Against Disease

A woman pushes an older lady on a wheelchair in the garden.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 2 to 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This level of physical activity can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, colon cancer, and depression. Gardening will provide you with your 2-2.5 hours. That’s about 20 minutes per day, which is just enough time to weed the flower bed!
Gardening has also been shown in studies to delay the onset of dementia. Gardening can help Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients as part of a horticultural therapy program. Gardening is also used in rehabilitation and physical therapy programs.

Gardening Creates a Sense of Time and Place

A person is pruning a branch in the winter

Days, weeks, and months can all blur together in our fast-paced world, and everything can appear to be the same, especially if you spend a lot of time indoors. Gardening allows us to keep time with nature. We can become more in tune with natural rhythms by observing what happens in the garden throughout the year. Seasonal activities provide us with rhythm and routine, which helps us to feel grounded.
Even in the dead of winter, the desire to garden can draw us outside to look for snowdrops, do some winter pruning, or measure out a new bed.

Gardening Builds Community

A community of people are gardening together

The great thing about gardening is that it can be a solitary activity or one in which you can involve others. Gardening can be done with your partner and children, over the fence with a neighbor, or in a community garden. You can exchange seeds and cuttings, host a plant swap party, or collaborate to create a neighborhood gathering spot.
Gardening brings people together and strengthens social bonds. That gives you more options for disposing of those 1001 zucchinis!

Gardening Is Good for Kids

A mother is planting vegetables with her daughter. Both are smiling and having fun.

Let us consider Nature Deficit Disorder. Children, perhaps even more than adults, benefit from spending time outside.
Gardening provides the same physical benefits to children as it does to adults. Furthermore, there is a lot for kids to learn while working in a garden, ranging from nature studies to math to carpentry; reading and writing. Children can plan, measure, plant, weed, and harvest. When an adult gardens with a child, the adult sees the world through different eyes.
Children are more likely to eat vegetables if they have grown them themselves, and early exposure to dirt has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Gardening brings families together. When families work together on a fun garden project, conversations become more open and easier.
Gardening activities for multiple generations help to avoid those awkward, dreaded conversations that begin with “So…school?” how’s Instead of a sullen shrug, a child can have a conversation with Grandpa about what to do about the aphids. And Grandma might find out about that junior high crush during a casual conversation while picking strawberries.

Gardening Helps the Environment

A picture of butterflies flying around plants that are beneficial for the environment.

Even if you don’t only garden with native plants, a garden can help local wildlife by providing shelter, food, and places to raise young. Plants help to clean the air, protect waterways, and provide food for pollinators.

You Might Find a New Career

A female horticulturist is holding a notepad to write notes about her plants

Some gardeners become so involved that they enroll in classes to further their horticultural knowledge. They’re working for a landscape company, starting a weeding service, or studying horticultural therapy before they know it. Some even go on to become lecturers or authors.

You Can Garden All Your Life

An elderly man is aerating the soil with a hoe.

Many hobbies or sports must be abandoned at some point. That weekly rugby game may no longer be a good fit as we get older. Gardening, on the other hand, can be pursued well into our golden years thanks to raised beds, ergonomically designed tools, and a slower pace.
Many retirement and nursing homes offer gardening activities to their residents because these communities understand that physical activity in nature combined with social interaction keeps people happier and healthier throughout their lives.

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About the author: Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.

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