bigstock-planting-summer-flowers-3113856There’s an old saying that gardening is  good for the soul, but did you know it has a profound effect on the body as well? These effects are generally positive, though physical labor can always have its drawbacks. Today we’ll explore how to maximize the health benefits of tending your land while minimizing common stressors that crop up so that you can enjoy your garden to the fullest!

The Pros 

In today’s modern world it’s more important than ever to make time for our health. Study after study has shown us how detrimental sedentary life can be. One of the greatest benefits of working in the garden is that it keeps you active. People who garden often will experience:

  • Better heart health & improved circulation – The garden is an all access gym minus the membership fees. Even the simplest maintenance tasks can help get your blood flowing and reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Ample vitamin D – Sunlight isn’t just for your daisies! It’s an important vitamin that we can’t get enough of while just sitting inside.
  • Increased hand strength and dexterity – Whether pulling weeds, sawing, raking or planting your hands get quite the work out and this keeps them limber and strong.
  • Improved mood and enhanced confidence – The pride of growing something from seed to flower/fruit is a delicious feeling indeed
  • Stress relief – it’s hard to sweat the small stuff when you’re busy literally sweating over weeds
  • Healthier diet – When you grow your own food you know exactly what went into it – no harmful chemicals or preservatives, just fresh and delicious produce.
    Fresh young garden with vegetables and flowers

    Fresh young garden with vegetables and flowers

  • Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia – Studies show that working in the garden has remarkable effects on the brain and helps greatly reduce the risk for degenerative diseases
  • Sense of community – once you begin your gardening journey you will meet many others whether online or in your own neighborhood that have a passion for growing things and through your shared experiences you not only learn more, you become more established in society and gain friends. Humans are social animals and having a clique is a great way to reduce stress and feel purposeful.

The Cons And How to Deal with Them

  • Stiff joints, especially sore knees or back are the price gardeners pay for their hobbies. These can be remedied by using raised beds to give your joints a break. Raised beds let you stand of sit on a chair while tending your greenery. Using good quality hand tools can also reduce the strain on your joints particularly in your wrists and hands.
    pruning shrubs in the spring with sharp pruners

    pruning shrubs in the spring with sharp pruners

  • Sunburn: Sunshine is beautiful and life giving force on earth, but too much of a good thing can lead to burns and even skin disease. Protect yourself from harsh UV rays with big sunhats, quality sunscreen and making the most out of the natural shade in your garden. Plant fast growing shade givers like Arborvitea to get more relief and while you’re waiting for them to reach maturity you can grow your favorite things in a greenhouse so that both you and your plants get all the goodness of sunlight without the sting.
  • Bug bites: Plant things that bad bugs hate all throughout your garden and keep a healthy ecosystem of predators that eat the things that eat us (spiders, bats, dragonflies, toads etc)
    • Avoid bee stings by avoiding behaviors that will get you stung. If your garden is a high traffic area for pollinators (which is wonderful!) try wearing white. Because most of their natural predators are dark in color (ex. Bears, raccoons, badgers) they are less likely to become defensive in the presence of much lighter colors. Stay calm when bees are about and remember that they’re here for the flowers – not you.
  • Stress / disappointment: these seem counter intuitive to the health benefits listed above, but any gardener who’s been in it for a while knows that losing a plant, particularly one you babied and loved and worked hard on maintaining, can really hurt. That kind of heartbreak just comes with the territory but you can avoid some of it with a bit of forethought and managing expectations. Grow plants that do well in your zone, test your soil quality and always get the facts (from multiple sources for good measure) about certain plants before you invest in them. Talk to your neighbors and ask them what didn’t do well in their yard so that you know what works and what doesn’t.

And finally… A thank you! 

When you garden you don’t just benefit yourself – you save the world! Simply by growing your own food and tending your greenery you are helping reduce air pollutants, enriching the soil, bolstering your local wildlife populations (to bees and Monarch butterflies you are a hero!), and reducing your overall carbon foot print. To the Green Thumbs of the world: We salute you!

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About Ashleigh Bethea

Ashleigh is an environmentalist who loves reading, photography, and spoiling her dog, Inali. As a fledgling gardener she wants greener thumbs and to live a little healthier everyday. While she dreams of traveling the world, for now she's content to study the natural beauty of her hometown. Her favorite color is any shade of purple, but don't bother asking about her favorite flower - it changes with the wind.

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