Good-for-you gardening: Enjoy the many benefits of tending to the garden

Learn how working in the garden can benefit you.
Gardening can have positive effects on your mental and physical health, as well as the environment.
Gardening can have positive effects on your mental and physical health, as well as the environment. [ JIRACHAYA PLEETHONG | Getty Images/iStockphoto ]
Published April 7

By Erin Feitsma, Times Total Media Correspondent

If you’re the gardening type, you already know that the benefits of spending time in the garden are myriad: You can grow your own crops and blooms, take pride in cultivating the natural landscape and get very good at intimidating the squirrels and other critters that try to eat the collard greens your husband planted (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience). But did you know that gardening can have positive effects on your mental and physical health, as well as the environment? Here, we detail even more reasons to get your green on.

Physical benefits

Working in the garden can be a very physical pursuit. The vigorous work it takes to cultivate a garden, like weeding it so your plants can grow, can be good for your heart. One UNC Health physician reports that the manual labor of gardening can provide cardiovascular benefits. It can also be a good way to burn calories. The average American man 20 years old or older will burn 360 calories during one hour of general gardening work, while the average American woman in the same age range will burn 312. If you’re actively digging and tilling the land (go, gardener, go!), that total jumps up to 450 calories for men and 390 for women over the course of an hour.

Grab your sunglasses, sunscreen and very fashionable, very wide-brimmed sun hat and get out there: According to UNC Health Talk, the exposure to sunlight that gardening provides may be able to help you get an adequate amount of vitamin D, which can increase your calcium levels and help both your bones and your immune system. Psychology Today also states that gardening can help improve or preserve your cognitive functions, so know that when you’re out tending to your flowers, herbs or pumpkin patch, your body and brain are also reaping the benefits.

Mental benefits

Brain? Did someone mention the brain? Yes, there are more mood-boosting, brainy benefits from gardening that help support mental health. According to UNC Health Talk, gardening can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and you may even get a boost of serotonin from digging in the soil. Inhaling Mycobacterium vaccae, a healthy bacterium found in soil, can help reduce anxiety, UNC Health Talk writes. Psychology Today states that this same bacterium has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties that may protect against stress. Gardening is also a self-esteem booster, so you may be cultivating both confidence and crops as you work. A win-win!

Environmental benefits

When you plant a garden, not only are you creating something beautiful that you and your loved ones can enjoy, but you’re also paying the environment a favor. According to Green Matters, plant roots can absorb errant chemicals or heavy metals from the soil they’re planted in, and can also help bind soil together, so it’s less likely to wash away in heavy rains. Plants also may be able to help counteract global warming, reports Green Matters. Growing your own crops may

also help the environment because it means taking less trips to Publix (and more trips to the garden to ward off those collard green-loving critters).

Next time you’re digging up weeds or planting seeds, remember: Having a garden of your own can be beneficial in many ways – not just for your mental and physical health, but for the world around you.

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