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The health benefits of gardening

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    Ergonomic tools can make the small movements of gardening easier.

    Ergonomic tools can make the small movements of gardening easier.

    Gardening may simply seem like a leisurely activity that allows you to enjoy fresh summer salads but there are actually many health benefits to planting and maintaining a garden. From the physical exercise it entails to the relaxation of tending to your plants and the healthy diet it promotes, there are plenty of reasons that it's beneficial for you to spend some time in a garden this summer:

    The physical benefits
    Remember the last time you spent an afternoon in the garden and woke up the next morning with sore legs? While you may have taken it as an indicator that you could use a little more exercise, your legs were probably actually sore because you gave them a workout! From bending to reaching, gardening causes you to stretch your body in many ways that you wouldn't normally move it. According to Health, since gardening is a form of low-impact exercise, it's especially beneficial for seniors or people with chronic pain.

    It's also a good way to get your blood pumping if you don't already have a regular ongoing fitness routine. Since gardening has more of a purpose than just giving you a reason to exercise, it's possible you'll find more enjoyment out of it and stick with it. Getting ample exercise not only keeps your body limber, but it also reduces your risk for cardiovascular health problems like heart attack and stroke.

    The repetitive small movements you make in the garden, whether you're trimming leaves or pulling weeds, are also good for people with limited dexterity in their hands. These muscle movements keep your hands strong and agile. If you find that you have difficulty performing the movements needed to garden, consider ergonomic gardening tools. 

    Gardening will keep you supplied with produce all summer.Gardening will keep you supplied with produce all summer.

    The mental benefits
    The physical benefits aren't the only important advantages of gardening. In order to be wholly healthy, you need to take your mental well-being into account as well. Gardening has been proven to effectively relieve stress. According to the National Gardening Association, a British study found that people between the ages of 50 and 88 who gardened reported less stress than seniors who had similar social support, but didn't have a gardening hobby. This may be due to the "contribution of engagement with nature and psychological restoration."

    Caring for a garden has also been shown help alleviate depression symptoms. A 2013 report from Gardener's World made up of interviews and polls found that people who spent time in a garden were more likely to report being happy with their lives. Even if it can't be proven that other factors in these people's lives impacted their level of satisfaction, it is safe to assume that people who garden are at least enjoying themselves while they do it.

    "There's no need to run to the store for ingredients for your salad."

    The nutritional benefits
    Whether you're growing tomatoes, cucumbers or a patch of pumpkins, gardening gives you the excuse to supplement your diet with plenty of nutritious vegetables. It's not necessary to run to the grocery store to get ingredients for your salad when you can just walk to the backyard to get what you need. Since you nurse those veggies from seeds to maturity, you can control the amount of pesticides and other extra "stuff" that's used on them.

    Another benefit of working in a garden is the vitamin D exposure from the sun that comes with it. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, promoting bone and immune system health. Vitamin D deficiencies are incredibly common, especially since we take such precaution to protect ourselves from the sun in order to prevent skin cancer. Our bodies need a little bit of sun, though, so that time spent in the garden will give you a healthy dose of sunlight – just don't stay out too long!

    If your home is not suited for gardening, there may be a community garden in your area. Or, consider creating an indoor herb garden. These simple potted plants provide a pleasant aroma and can add a little fresh spice to your meals.


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