February 11, 2014

Gardening for your Health

Although it looks like this outside my window...

Spring is in 36 days and I can't wait until I can improve my health while tending to my plant babies.
Today's guest post is by David Novak and it explains the health benefits of gardening.

Gardening for your Health
Exercise has always been an essential part in keeping the body it its optimum health; however, this can be strenuous for older adults and for those with health conditions. Moderate exercises can still be effective, but it does depend on how long and how often you’ll do the activity.

Gardening, in particular, has been found to be beneficial for overall health, not only because home-grown foods provide a lot of nutrition, but also because gardening is actually a decent exercise activity, especially for those who are unable to do arduous fitness routines. Gardening can build up leg strength, arm strength, and moderately exercise your heart muscle if your putting any effort into it.

Some people think that gardening requires a lot of energy, an ample yard space and expert gardening skills, but even a small window box and a little energy will do, as long you have the zeal and willingness to learn. Here are some of the benefits of gardening for overall health:

Gardening ensures nutrition-dense produce
Growing your own food is one of the best benefits of gardening since you’ll be able to save on your food budget, and you also have the assurance that you’re eating pesticide-free, vitamin and mineral-dense produce. Fresh produce also tastes better than those bought in supermarkets. Gardeners also tend to eat healthier than those who don’t grow their own food.
You may need to spend extra cash for organic soil and fertilizer; however, it is still cheaper than putting your life at risk with produce that may not be high-quality or safe.

Better mental health
Gardening has been found effective in improving mood and self-esteem. Several studies have shown that the activity can be a more powerful stress reliever than almost any other relaxing activity. It provides a good deal of satisfaction, knowing that you’re growing the very food that you put in your body, and it has long been used as a form of therapy for those suffering from depression and anxiety. Horticultural therapy has also been developed to aid people with psychiatric disorders. Being surrounded by nature improves the level of optimism and overall life satisfaction.

Boosts vitamin D levels
Most people tend to have vitamin D deficiency because there are limited food sources that contain this essential vitamin. Vitamin D, commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, is naturally produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure. Gardening is one of the best ways to boost vitamin D levels, though it is advisable to limit sun exposure to two or three times a week for 5 to 10 minutes, and this vitamin is best paired with proper supplementation for consistent levels of the vitamin present in your body at all times. Vitamin D is essential in keeping bones strong, and it also acts as an added protection for the body against numerous health problems.

Brain health
Physical activity is not only beneficial for the body, but it’s also very helpful for mental health. Research suggests that regular gardening lowers the risk of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. For those that are already experiencing mental deterioration, gardening is an effective therapeutic activity, which has a positive influence on the mind.

Gardening has always been recommended by doctors and therapists as a form of light physical exercise, especially for people still recovering from a certain health problem. Gardening allows you to work out major muscle groups such as legs, arms, buttocks, neck, abdomen and back. Like any other form of exercise, gardening should be done for at least 30 minutes for it to be beneficial. Gardening as an exercise also has a lower risk of physical stress and muscle strain, which is common with other strenuous exercises. Overall, it helps build muscles, increases flexibility and promotes stronger joints.

Lose weight
Though gardening is not like the usual calorie-burning exercises, it is still a great form of exercise to lose unwanted pounds, depending on what gardening tasks you are doing. The American Council on Exercise says that gardening can burn around 300 calories per hour, provided you’re doing things such as digging, planting, weeding and harvesting. An hour of shoveling or mowing the lawn manually will burn approximately 400 calories, which is equal to a 4-mile jog. It is also more appealing to go out in the yard to remove weeds, instead of dragging yourself to the gym just to exercise.

Longer life span
Another amazing health benefit of gardening is its ability to prolong life span by lowering the risk of numerous health disorders. Moderate physical activity like gardening can help reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack. Older adults who are mostly sedentary can benefit from gardening, since it doesn’t require strenuous work, but it still can provide benefits for your cardiovascular health and longevity. Gardening is also found effective in lowering the risk of osteoporosis. Even a modest effort at gardening can help improve bone health.

David Novak’s byline has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline. To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/.

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