Long heralded as victorious expressions of independence and thrift, gardens have helped restore the connection between human beings and nature. Gardening’s importance has led cities to create community plots for urban gardeners, with some cities amending their zoning laws and allowing gardeners to sell their produce from their homes.
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While this potential for added household income is a strong motivator, experienced gardeners understand that sowing, and then tending to your outdoor living space, living art gallery, summer’s salads or winter’s vegetables, offers benefits unmatched by financial gain.
1. Sun Exposure
Sunny day gardening exposes you to sunlight, triggering vitamin D production that mediates your body’s calcium absorption. Vitamin D also controls inflammation, protects against cancer by controlling cell growth and influences nerve and muscle behavior, but few foods provide it at levels matching those from sun exposure.
Gardening in sunlight can protect bones from osteoporosis in the elderly and prevent rickets in children. As seen with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sunlight’s absence can cause depression, so getting out and gardening in the sun keeps you happy alongside healthy.
2. Stress Management
The sense of control and accomplishment gained from growing your own vegetables or creating beautiful landscapes can alleviate stress. When the demands of both home and work seem endless, gardening combines distinct tasks, each with its own start and end, attuned to nature’s cycles and rhythms, the cycles and rhythms human beings evolved to live with.
Working soil also exposes you to friendly bacteria that work like serotonin in the brain to elevate your mood. While skin-mediated contact with friendly bacteria may not rival Prozac’s effects, it may alleviate or prevent mild mood disorders and mild depression.
3. Physical Conditioning
Gardening means working muscles and activating your gross and fine motor skills. The gentle exercise protects your joints and strengthens muscles in the neck, back and abdomen. It burns 100 to 200 calories an hour while you focus on the day’s gardening chores, and you can garden longer than you can execute multiple sets of stomach tightening crunches or use an exercise bike.
Gardening’s exercise can help you lose weight and may lower your blood pressure, drop your cholesterol levels, stave off heart disease and gain better control of diabetes and other metabolic disorders associated with sedentary lifestyles.
So, approach gardening as you would any exercise session! Warm up before getting your gardening tools. First, walk the perimeter of your garden while planning your tasks; the walk warms your leg muscles and slightly increases your circulation. Then, do several alternating lunges to stretch your lower back and hamstring muscles and a few side stretches to warm muscles involved in reaching.
You will plant your first seedlings after winter’s inactivity, so start slowly. Start with easier and lighter projects before moving dirt piles or trimming trees. If you are ambitious, start an exercise program a few weeks before your planting season using the muscles you use during gardening.
Add several repetitions of front loaded squats and dead lifts to mimicking bag carrying to your winter exercise routine. Next, add alternating lunges while holding 10-pound dumbbells mimicking a common weeding stance and building up muscles in your thighs and rear.
4. Social Opportunities
Remember when neighbors commiserated over backyard fences and front yard hedges? Gardening neighbors often find themselves sharing community news and concerns during those little breaks between weeding and tending emerging bean vines and carrot tops. These conversations cement trust between people who share city blocks, defeating isolation and ensuring trustworthy help in a crisis.
Join a community garden and meet other people who live beyond your street’s contiguous backyards, but share your district. Gardening gives you the basis for conversations that can lead to long and cherished friendships.
Gardening teaches children and reminds adults about life’s seasonal cycles, food production, plant growth and local insect populations in an age when children spend less than seven hours per week learning about nature and the world around them while outdoors and beyond a television screen. Parents and children can work side-by-side, sharing quality time with an educational flair and building an appreciation for the planet and its care.
Through gardening, you can improve your health, making space in your life for cooperation and sharing like that practiced by humanity’s first tribes and earliest ancestors. Its therapeutic importance is so recognized that you can become a certified horticultural therapist and help others discover the healthy life they deserve.
Are you ready to start your personal garden space?