NIH Recommends Gardening for Health

January 12, 2016

If you love gardening, you already know the feeling of invigoration and the connection with nature that Mid age man gardeningcomes from getting down into the soil. Depending upon how ambitious your garden is, you’ve probably also felt the “good aches” that come from a serious gardening session. (Note: Gardening should NEVER actually “hurt” or cause strain – more on this below.) And of course, there’s the satisfaction (and taste!) of sampling your yield in recipes.

But did you know that when you garden, you’re actually making yourself healthier? At least that’s what both the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claim. According to the NIH, three to five 30-45 minute sessions in the garden per week can help combat obesity. And the CDC calls gardening “moderate cardiovascular exercise.”

These health-geared organizations are backing up observations of other groups (and scientific studies) before them: gardening really is good for not only soul, but body. According to WebMD, gardening may:
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Boost immune function.
  • Help relieve stress.
  • Hasten recovery from illness and reduce the need for pain medications, as observed in a landmark 1999 study.
  • Aid in weight loss and obesity control.
  • Lift depression and reduce anxiety.

Getting Started

Gardening doesn’t need to involve acres of land and heavy farm equipment. You can get started easily in a small space or with just one or two plants.
  • If you live in a small area, such as an apartment, or don’t have much lawn or landspace, consider container gardening. Look for plants that have been bred to grow (or naturally grow) vertically rather than outward, or that don’t grow very large.
  • Rather than digging up your lawn, try a raised flower or vegetable bed. These are easy to make yourself using wood pieces, or check your local home improvement/garden store.
  • Do your homework. Find out which plants will grow well in your locale, how long they will take to yield (if you are growing for vegetables, fruits or flowers) and how easy or difficult they are to grow.
  • Try herbs! In addition to generally being small and compact (many can fit in containers on the windowsill), they will add deliciousness to your recipes.
  • Consider getting into a local co-op/community garden. You’ll be surprised how much you learn.
  • Volunteer for your child’s class garden. Ask a fellow parent with gardening experience to help.

When It’s Not a “Good” Ache

Don’t cancel out the health benefits by being in pain! If you’re experiencing more than the usual post-workout aches:

Use a garden stool to move around your garden seated if you have limited mobility or are recovering from injury.

Make sure everything is within easy reach. Stretching and bending when you have arthritis or limited mobility can cause undue strain and may cause injury.

If you have allergies, consider wearing a mask when gardening.

Keep bottled water or unsweetened cold tea next to you; if it’s very warm out or if you’re working hard, you will want to stay hydrated.

Wear knee pads in order to cushion and provide comfort.

ALWAYS wear gloves when gardening to keep your hands clean and avoid accidentally grasping burrs or thorns. With the right preparation and comfort, you’ll be experiencing the joys – and benefits – of gardening in no time. Enjoy and happy gardening!

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