Gardening isn’t just about improving the environment around you and growing plants to be proud of. It also benefits you in numerous ways that you might not have thought of, from your mental wellbeing to your immune system.
This post, courtesy of outdoor fitness specialists Start Fitness, will run through the ways in which green-fingered living can improve your fitness and overall health, often without you even realising you’re doing exercise!
A blooming garden is a stress-buster
Experts agree that gardening is good for your mental health, which has led the NHS to prescribe horticultural therapy for patients. The subtle combination of gentle, concentrated activity and the self-esteem boost you get from successfully planting and nurturing vegetables or flowers means a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol, making you more relaxed and able to sleep better at night.
After the actual physical activity is over, you’ll be able to relax in your garden, satisfied in the knowledge that your beautiful surroundings are all your own work!
Cut the risk of heart attacks
Small amounts of exercise throughout the day can improve your health to a large extent, and gardening offers exactly that. Even half an hour of gardening a day can give you a useful amount of exercise that reduces the risk of cardiac problems, as well as providing you with your daily amount of Vitamin D, which helps allay the onset of conditions such as osteoporosis.
If you’re an outdoorsy type that dislikes the monotony of a gym treadmill workout or the intensity of a spin class, the gentle, environmentally attuned rhythm of a half hour spent gardening could be for you. There are no personal bests to hit, no need to push yourself through a pain barrier – just the satisfying end goal of growing some beautiful flowers or tasty home produce.
You’ll be surprised by the number of calories you burn while tending to your plants. Effort-intensive exercise like digging and weeding are obvious calorie burners – an hour of weeding and garden clearance can burn up to 400 calories – but even more sedate activities like planting and watering can burn between 120 and 400 calories per hour.
So, your well-earned cup of tea after a morning’s gardening is exactly that – a few hours spent perfecting your pride and joy burns easily as many calories as your average gym workout, in a much more relaxed atmosphere.
There’s nothing quite like home-grown food. From a small bag of seeds to an impressive harvest that can form the backbone for many healthy meals, the effort you put into your home-grown veggies is rewarded once you dig them out of the ground.
Combining a healthy activity like gardening with a garden-based diet doubles up on holistic lifestyle benefits. We’re not saying that you should live exactly like Tom & Barbara from The Good Life, but a few home-grown veggies can reduce shopping bills and increase your self-esteem all in one!
It’s not just the food that improves your health. Most soil contains a ‘good’ bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, which has been found to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and asthma, boosting your immune system in the process. This means the time you spend on your hands and knees planting veg can help your defences against infection – a useful bonus that isn’t often thought about.
We hope this post has inspired you to take an active interest in your garden and use it as a way to keep well. The healthier the garden, the healthier you’ll be, so what are you waiting for?
Alex Jones is a features writer for Start Fitness – providers of running, cycling, gym, football and outdoor products.