Health Benefits of Gardening
by Rob Sproule
A New Year’s Resolution
The dawning of a new year is a chance to give the gift to ourselves of a healthier lifestyle and a more positive perspective. While they always start with optimism, however, the New Year’s Resolution is one of those traditions that is as well known for its breaking as for its making.
Many of the resolutions we’ll be making this year will be devoted to our health. A healthy lifestyle leads to lower stress levels, a more positive outlook, and fewer issues down the line.
This year, I’d like to recommend a resolution that will give you a healthier lifestyle without having to wake up every morning at 5 am to go jogging. It will get you in shape and will help you reconnect with those you love. In 2014, let’s all spend more time in the garden.
Health Benefits we can Measure
For how enjoyable gardening is, many people are surprised to find out how healthy it is. Numerous studies have linked it to lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. A University of Arkansas study even found that gardeners had lower rates of osteoporosis than people who did other kinds of exercise, like jogging or aerobics.
Gardening ranges from low intensity exercise (light planting or weeding) to high intensity (heavy lifting and pulling). Unlike exercises like jogging or weight-training, which tend to focus on specific muscle groups, gardening has so many types of activity that it usually provides a well-balanced work-out.
A study from the University of Iowa found that 30 minutes of gardening burns a surprising amount of calories. Most moderate intensity activities, such as planting, pruning, or weeding, burn about 200 calories for men and about 150 for women. Mowing the lawn came in the as the best calorie burner at 236 for men and 186 for women.
Health Benefits we can’t Measure
The amount of calories we burn may be the most quantifiable health benefit of gardening but it’s certainly not the only one. The pride we feel after an hour of good gardening ripples through our lives and improves our mental health in countless ways.
Gardeners tend to sleep better after having spent their evenings in the fresh oxygen and vitality of their garden instead of in front of a screen. They also tend to approach their daily challenges with a more positive, constructive, and confident outlook.
Gardening connects us to the earth. Feeling moist soil between our fingers nourishes us in ways impossible to measure. It re-affirms our connection with nature and, in doing so, with our place within it.
When I think of the magic of gardening, I often think of Joan Baker, a beloved family friend who lives in Cardiff, Wales. Joan is 89 years old. She lives alone and keeps a stunning garden that is a privilege to walk through. She’s an internationally acclaimed artist and swears that her garden is the secret to her energy.
How We Spend Our Time
Many New Year’s Resolutions are easier said than done. When they fail, it’s often because the time requirements attached to them are too onerous to compete with our daily schedules.
The advantage gardening has over many other exercises is that you don’t need to leave your yard to do it. There are no memberships or rows of treadmills. There is only fresh life to pour your nurturing into so that it can nurture you in return later.
Canadians spend about 4 hours a day watching television. If we took a half hour out of each of those 4 hour chunks and spent it in the garden, we’d be rewarded with a healthier lifestyle and a more positive state of mind.
Feeling the earth between your fingers is more than exercise. It’s a state of being that yields rewards far above having fresh tomatoes or burning calories. Gardening is how we connect to the earth and remember that we are a part of nature, after all. Perspective like that is the best resolution of all.