Spring weather makes us all want to spend more time outdoors, and the garden is a great place to start. But aside from being an oasis of solitude, experts agree that organic gardening is also good for your health. Here are just a few reasons why.
1. It’s a great way to get exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control says that gardening is “an excellent way to get physical activity,” and a 2006 study at the University of Scranton shows that prolonged light exercise like gardening can actually burn more calories than a gym session. This is because you're far more likely to stick around in the garden until all of your tomato plants are staked than you are to watch numbers fly by on the treadmill.
2. It’s educational.
Cheryl Forberg, “The Biggest Loser” nutritionist, notes that gardening “is a great way for families and communities, especially children, to learn where their food comes from and reconnect with nature.”
Forberg, who is also a Seeds of Change® spokesperson, notes that the program is a great way to support school and community gardening, helping both children and adults learn more about growing their own food.
“Making that connection helps children to feel more engaged in the meal preparation process and subsequently more likely to try new vegetables, get excited about cooking and continue healthy cooking and eating habits into adulthood,” she says.
And this is true for adults as well. There's something so rewarding about making a Caprese salad with your own tomatoes or grilling up zucchini fresh from the garden that no purchased veggie, no matter how artisanal, can ever compare to.
3. Organic gardening is a great way to keep yourself and your family in good, healthy produce.
This one is a no-brainer: the more you grow, the more you get to partake in fresh, healthy, seasonal produce.
“Nothing is more fresh than seed to plate,” notes Forberg. “If you've planted a variety of colors, you can feel really good about what you're putting on the table for your family.”
At home, Forberg is well on her way to planting a great variety of food to enjoy. While last year, she lived on one acre in Napa with fruit trees and a large vegetable and herb garden, this year, she’s striking out from scratch on her new 40-acre property.
“[It] hasn’t really been farmed before, so we really have our work cut out for us,” she says. “Our just-planted fruit orchard won't yield anything for a few years, but I'm hoping our first garden will at least yield most of the veggies we had in Napa.”
Depending on where you live, you may be able to grow most or all of your favorite fruits and veggies in your own backyard or communal garden.
4. It’s good for your emotional wellbeing.
For Forberg, as for many, gardening is associated with fond childhood memories. “My happiest memories are of summers spent on my grandmother's farm in Wisconsin,” she says. “Days in the garden were always followed by delicious dinners made with incredibly fresh produce.”
But nostalgia isn't the only way that gardening can make you feel happier.
A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that gardening can decrease cortisol levels, essentially providing all-natural stress relief, and a study from Michigan State University has shown that gardening is associated with mental clarity.
Research from the University of Bristol has even shown that bacteria found living in soil can increase serotonin levels in the brain, thus having a positive effect on your mood.
Forberg notes that while gardening can be intimidating at first, there are tons of classes, workshops, online videos, and books that can help.
“Start small the first year so that you don't get overwhelmed or discouraged,” she suggests. “There's a lot to learn and every area has different soil, water and climate issues.”
Now is the perfect time to start.
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