Healthy Gardens, Healthy Gardeners

Garden GirlLest we forget — and it’s easy when we’re all wrist deep in soil — gardening is healthy! But you already knew that. Want to burn calories? The estimates suggest that gardeners burn 300 calories an hour, 600 calories an hour if they’re doing heavy yard work. Spading the garden burns 150 to 200 calories per half hour (the rates vary between women and men). Women burn 138 calories per half hour weeding, men 181. As Sherry Rindels of the Iowa State University Extension Horticultural Division points out in the article linked above, using herbicides doesn’t come anywhere close to burning the calories of hand weeding. And you’re not exposing yourself — and your children, pets, and neighbors to chemicals that may cause harm.

The strength, endurance, and flexibility that gardening requires is especially beneficial to the aging (and who isn’t aging?). And its been found that the kind of activities associated with gardening can reduce the risk of cancer. Not only that — as this article points out — “gardeners eat a wider variety of vegetables (rich in disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals), and have a higher overall intake of vegetables than non-gardeners.” If your garden is organic, the benefits are better still.

But the health benefits of gardening transcend simple physical rewards. A study by the Department of Environmental Health, Colorado School of Public Health published last year finds gardening provides social and mental benefits as well. From the study: “The physical and social qualities of garden participation awaken the senses and stimulate a range of responses that influence interpersonal processes (learning, affirming, expressive experiences) and social relationships that are supportive of positive health-related behaviors and overall health.” Indeed, the practice of gardening has been found so beneficial to therapeutic and rehabilitative medicine that an association – The American Horticultural Therapy Association – has been formed to advance its work.

And you thought you were just growing some flowers and vegetables.

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