A Healthy Harvest

Being outdoors and enjoying all that mother nature has to offer is always good for the body and soul. But working in a garden multiplies the healthy harvest. Digging and weeding and even planting a garden count as exercise, and the organic crops you can grow are among the best-for-your-table produce available.

I cannot laud my backyard garden enough when it comes to keeping me healthy. Very few outdoor activities offer a fraction of gardening health benefits.

Growing a Healthy Body

Yes, gardening is exercise. This will come as no surprise to active gardeners, since it’s impossible to shovel and hoe without breaking a sweat. Raking and grass cutting are moderate exercise, but breaking up the soil is likely vigorous exercise. This helps keep down weight as well as getting solid sleep every night.

But that’s not all. Working out under the sun allows the body to create Vitamin D, essential for strengthening bones and upgrading your immune system. Vitamin D also is proven to keep the doctor at bay, reducing a gardener’s chances of many diseases including many kinds of cancer.

And, to top off these benefits, studies have shown that gardening improves cognitive function in the brain. In fact, it is recommended as an effective treatment for people with dementia in some countries.

Stress Reduction and Mindfulness

Gardening has been called good for the soul. First, just interacting with nature on a regular basis promotes mental health. Working outdoors and tending crops just makes us feel good and upgrades our moods.

I know that “gardening” is on my short list of activities that cheer me up when I feel self hatred or despair. It pulls me out of regret for the past and fear of the future to keep me in the moment. And let’s face it: just unplugging from technology is refreshing for the mind and spirit. So now’s the time to trade in your BlackBerry for blackberry bushes!

Stress isn’t nice to our bodies. When unpleasant events raise the level of stress hormones like cortisol in your body, there are all sorts of negative consequences. But working in a garden can help you recuperate from stress fast. Studies have even established the connection.

Low-cost Organic Produce

Who hasn’t excused themselves for passing up organic produce in favor of processed foods by pointing to the exorbitant prices of the best produce? This excuse disappears when you garden. This hobby has easily and effectively increased my daily access to healthy foods at a reasonable price.

Although not everything grows well in cool San Francisco, all leafy greens are very happy in the garden here most of the year. I eat my own organic lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard all year long. And it’s so handy, all that produce is just a stone’s throw from the kitchen table.

And it goes without saying that regular access to fruits and vegetables has improved my nutrition. It is hardly surprising that gardeners in general eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than those who buy all their food at the stores.

Healthy Harvest

Still not convinced? Give gardening a try for one season and you will become a confirmed gardener as well as a healthier individual.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.