How Gardening Can Improve Your Health

Written by Leanna Serras

Don?t underestimate the health values of gardening. The health benefits of gardening know no age, health condition or gender boundary. Whether you?re single, wheelchair-bound and raising strawberries in a container or have mapped out your garden patch in your yard for corn, tomatoes, green beans and carrots for your family of five; the benefits of vegetable gardening carry more than organic and nutritional value.?The spiritual, physical, mental and emotional value of sowing seeds and planting plants, watching them grow into something beautiful or edible, is fascinating, fun and relaxing. The exercise benefit can?t be beat, either.?Light gardening burns nearly 300 calories an hour for a 150-lb. person bending and stooping to plant or to maintain your flowers or food. Gardening gives you physical exercise, mental and emotional satiety and sense of good spirit?and most everyone loves to play in the dirt, no matter what you?re age! Get those kids in the garden from day one, get physical, bring the family together through work and harvest or find ways to share your bounty and ensuing benefits.

The Physical Benefit

Getting down and dirty in the garden is work. You bend, you stoop, you scoop, you pull weeds, you reap your harvest. It keeps you moving and that?s good for your joints and your cardiovascular system. The Center for Disease Control recommends around 30 to 60 minutes a day of activity, starting out slower and building up if you haven?t been active in a while, especially if you are disabled or elderly. Older gardeners use their hands, keeping them nimble, even if arthritis has claimed them. Pinching pruning shears or weeds helps make muscles and joints stronger. Gardening is a low-impact exercise, perfect for older adults and those with physical issues such as obesity, high blood pressure and depression. Gardening can help you lose weight; reduce that high blood pressure and alleviate depression symptoms. But always talk to your doctor before undertaking any type of physical activity, especially if you have physical, mental or environmental concerns or disabilities.

Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Benefits

Horticultural therapy reduces stress, it costs are commensurate with what you want to spend and offers mental, emotional and spiritual benefits without taking a pill. Planting, pruning, weeding, cutting and mulching your garden reduces stress, provides aromatherapy and the physical release of anxiety, says a study out of Tennessee State University. Even if you have room only for a container garden, you still have to tend to your plant, water it daily, and prune it as needed. No matter what the size, urban or rural, gardening boosts your brainpower, upping your mental acuity and puts you on an emotional even keel by releasing pent-up tension. Spiritually, gardening is centering, putting you in the present, helps you work out problems by providing peace of mind and spirit. Seeing the fruits of your labors, the colors of your garden, smelling the freshness of the flowers and vegetables, eating nutritious, organic food that you've grown yourself gives a self-satisfaction and happiness that hours of therapy and medication can?t give for negligible cost. But never embark on home therapy on your own if you are under a doctor?s care. Only your physician can take you off your medication.

The Unexpected Benefit

Gardening provides one benefit that provides the foundation for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of the gardener: financial.?Times are tough economically. Food is getting more expensive to offset the recession cycle. Plain and simple, it costs more to eat healthy and well?especially if you have a larger family. Planting your own garden provides you with fresh produce to eat, saving on your grocery bill and gas money running to the store.

For instance, tomato plants can grow in nearly every zone in the United States. One plant may yield up to ten pounds of tomatoes a season. With tomato prices around a buck-fifty per pound on sale, that?s a savings alone of $15! Add to that the gallon of gas it takes to run back and forth to the store and one tomato plant can yield up to $20 in savings. Plant three tomato plants, eat and share with your neighbors and can the excess and not only have you helped others, you have food for the winter.

Older Adults Benefit from Gardening