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The Benefits of Gardening for Your Total Health

Posted on April 25, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Image by Markus Spiske from Pixabay.

For those of you who regularly read my posts, you know that I love to garden, whether it be to grow food or plant flowers. My kitchen window sill has tomato and pepper plant starts already, but my garden isn’t ready for them yet. I also have herbs like peppermint, basil, chives, rosemary, and oregano growing in my kitchen to snip and use in delicious dishes. We always look forward to the produce which will come from the work I put into it. Tasty, nutritious peppers, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, and more will fill our fridge to overflowing! In the meantime, I have to prepare the soil for the seeds and plant starts. I also need to put up a fence to protect them from hungry creatures like deer, rabbits, and groundhogs who think my garden is their buffet. There is always work to be done throughout the year, but especially now. Gardening provides many benefits for your total health.

I anticipate what to plant during the dreary February cold because it always gives me something to look forward to. This time helps me dream about sunny days and what I would like to grow in my garden. Planning one excites me with a positive view on life when seasonal depressive disorder is in full swing. My hubby keeps telling me that Memorial Day is the start of planting season here in Michigan, but I like to start earlier when possible. I work the soil and add compost to nourish my new sprouts and diatomaceous earth to keep grubs from eating up their tender roots. I get quite a bit of exercise picking up bags of soil, squatting down to plant, upper body work raking and weeding. My heart rate climbs up into the fat burn zone as I toil away for a few hours at the beginning of the season. During the growing season, you will find me weeding, feeding, and pruning plants. Since my garden is organic, I have to be vigilant about dealing with insects and other pests that love to feast on the fruits of my labor. I use neem oil diluted in water to spritz the plants. Some insects like tomato worms and Japanese beetles need a boost of hot pepper sauce added to my bug solution to keep them at bay. There is always something to do that keeps me busy in my chemical-free zone.

At harvest, I have to keep my watch for fresh vegetables and fruit to be ready to pick. Some of these I prefer to pick slightly early and ripen on my window sill near my sink. I bring the harvest into the kitchen to wash and prepare for meals or to put in our freezer for the winter. Fresh and frozen produce from our garden has a higher nutritional value with vitamins and minerals that keep us healthier longer in our mid-life stage. I often share produce with other people who don’t have gardens because I know they would love to garden but aren’t able due to health or living situations.

Did I make your mouth water? You could garden, too, in some form whether it is in garden boxes like mine, pots on your patio or kitchen window, or a community garden. Need more convincing? Here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered from gardening:

1. Fresh air and vitamin D production. Obviously, you should protect yourself from the ultraviolet rays, but getting your dose of sunshine causes your body to produce more vitamin D on its own. That's something we here in Michigan are low on around here. Fresh air also fills our lungs rather than the air we get re-circulated in our homes.

2. Greater well-being by anticipating satisfaction from work. If work, school, or parenting seem unfruitful, your garden can help fill the void. We all need to feel a sense of accomplishment in our daily living, something good to look forward to by the end of our day.

3. Physical exercise with a visible purpose. Does weight lifting at the gym or getting your cardio on a treadmill make you feel like a gerbil on a wheel going nowhere? Then you are probably someone who needs a sense of purpose to your exercise. You certainly know the primary purpose for exercise is for your health, but gardening provides more immediate, visible results from your work.

4. Excellent nutritional value from the foods we grow. Produce from stores is often shipped green-- yes, before it is ripe-- to be ready for your shopping trip. However, the best taste and nutritional punch comes from ripening on the vine in the sunshine. My hubby mourns the loss of our fresh, juicy tomatoes when the snowflakes fly because those from the store taste, well, blah.

5. A tremendous appreciation of God’s magnificent creation. Year after year, I marvel at God's intricate work of a seed that germinates, grows as a seedling, then produces food for our bodies. I love the seasons and their purposes in the growth, death, and renewal processes. Except, I am not a fan of cold. Nope. The birds are smarter than me. What's with that???

6. Long-range planning and troubleshooting work brain cells. If you want to keep good cognitive function for your brain, exercise it by working on solutions to problems. Gardening will certainly do that for you from how to lay your garden out, what to grow, how to deal with disease issues, to pest control, to meal prep. Check!

7. Calorie burn and strengthening through functional training. I've joked on a number of ocassions about farmers who can give my clients as good or better workouts than my Junk Yard workouts. That is, until I watch them staring into their iPhones on monster equipment that looks like a Transformer out in the field behind my house. No jokes here, though. You can seriously kick up a calories burn over the course of an hour or two of functional work by toggling between the aerobic and anaerobic phases of conditioning You can kick it up a notch by adding in interval station work on purpose-- yes, on purpose. You can be lean and strong from gardening.

8. Stronger joints. Your joints are strengthened by putting stress on the muscle heads and tendons. The strengthening in your muscles and joints protect your joints from injury and reduce pain in the overall scheme. If you have arthritis, like I do, you will have pain immediately afterward. Pace yourself if you hurt for more than two hours after you are done. Use ergonomic tools, a garden seat, and a kneeling pad for joint protection and fall prevention.

9. Social interactions when sharing gardening tips and produce. When people come to our house, they often talk to us about my garden and my cute shed. It has become quite the conversation piece, I tell you. You can teach children about growing their own food, share produce with family, friends, and neighbors, or chat at the community garden sharing tips and helps, and maybe a bit of bug repellent.

10. Gratitude for God’s amazing provision. I love to save the best for last because you leave with this last thought: your relationship with God. We can do nothing apart from God's purposes and power. Express gratitude for God's goodness and provision, marvel at the wonders of what He created from nothing, say grace at your meals keeping in mind what you have seen happen. It's not us who grow this goodness, it is God who grows it through us.

Do you garden? If not, would you be able to have a garden or a few pots in your window sill? Even if you don’t like getting your hands dirty, there are numerous health benefits to gardening in whatever form you choose. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

May God bless you!

Other great reads on the health benefits of gardening:

"5 Secret Health Benefits of Gardening" by Kim Hayes. AARP June 14, 2017.

"10 Surprising Ways Gardening is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do" by Charlotte Hilton Anderson. Readers Digest.

Categories: nutrition, health, faith

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