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By: Lauren McRae
Warmer weather and sunnier forecasts make us want to step out into the fresh air and get back to nature. What better way to connect with the outdoors than cultivating your own plants, fruits and vegetables? Gardening has lots of physical and mental health benefits, and springtime is the best time to grow a beautiful garden that will bloom all summer long. Many gardeners also find it to be an outlet for artistic expression. Whichever reason you choose, it’s an activity for all ages.
Pictured below: Julie Galassini
The experts in Family Medicine at NorthShore say gardening is a great way to get people of all ages more active by doing a fun activity.
Here are some ways gardening can improve your health:
Burns CaloriesAn hour of gardening could help you burn up to 330 calories. If you garden for three to four hours, you could burn as many calories as you would from going to the gym for an hour. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 30-45 minutes of gardening for three to five times per week.
Reduces LonelinessRent a plot at your local community garden – it’s a great gathering place for like-minded people who share this interest, as well. Community gardens not only contribute to a healthier lifestyle by relieving stress and getting people active, but it also provides social opportunities that build a sense of community and belonging. It gives people an opportunity to learn and share knowledge on gardening, nature and cooking.
Increases Your Vitamin D LevelsSunshine on the skin increases your vitamin D levels, which in turn increases your calcium levels, which is necessary for a strong immune system and bones. Vitamin D may also protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, cancer and other diseases. (Don’t forget to load up on sunscreen, wear a protective hat or sunglasses while you are out there soaking it up!).
Improves Hand DexterityAging can contribute to a loss of strength and dexterity in our hands. Actively digging, pulling plants and planting with gardening keeps your bones and joints moving, strong and nimble.
Can Improve Your DietThere’s an excitement that occurs during the process of gardening: from the initial planting of a seed, to watching it grow, to observing a plump vegetable or fruit ready to harvest. Watching the whole growing process can make you treat your food differently, so you’ll really enjoy eating what you grew. Fruits and vegetables provide lots of vitamins and nutrients; what better way of getting your supply than growing them yourself? Homegrown produce is healthier too, because it’s grown without fertilizers and preservatives.
Gardening is MeditativeBreathing in the fresh air and focusing on planting can help you get into the zone. It can help you temporarily flee the worries of the workweek, and looking at nature gives our brains a rest from intense cognitive function. Giving your attention to the garden can help you enter a magical and spiritual place where you can find focus and clarity.