One of the most difficult aspects of establishing an exercise regimen is finding a routine that brings you joy along with the proven health benefits of working out. The local gym, quite simply, is not going to cut it for certain individuals who find the sterile environment and gym-centric forms of exercise to be loathsome.
While organized sports are ideal for many, individual forms of exercise which don’t require the participation of others must also be considered if one is serious about living a healthier life. For this reason, more individuals should consider gardening to improve the health of their body and mind.
The Science Behind Gardening and Health :
According to Women’s Health, one study found that numerous tasks employed in gardening qualify as moderate to high-intensity physical exercise. Those seeking to improve their health should consider that some activities were more strenuous than others.
Digging – an essential first step in planting – is considered a high-intensity physical activity. Slightly less strenuous are raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, harvesting, and watering. Planting, meanwhile, was considered the lowest intensity activity.
If you find yourself exhausted by the digging aspect of gardening, try engaging more frequently in the more low-exertion gardening activities at first, and work your way up to more consistent digging. With several options for you to do in your garden or yard, approach gardening as exercise the same way you would a workout plan, progressing at your own pace and mixing up your activities in order to prevent boredom.
Gardening as a Mental Health Benefit :
While enhanced physical fitness may be the most obvious benefit to gardening, we know well that our mental and physical well-being are strongly linked. And, we know that physical activity – including gardening – is of great benefit to both mental and physical health.
NPR detailed the benefits of gardening on populations with acute mental health problems, including prison populations and those with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Referred to in the professional community as horticultural therapy, the psychological value in gardening arises from its proven reduction of cortisol – a stress-response hormone – which in turn reduces stress and increases feelings of calmness.
Stress can be a driving factor in chronic pain, so the reduction in cortisol may prove a great alleviation of seemingly inescapable pain for many. While research regarding the extent of gardening’s benefits on more severe mental health conditions remains to be conducted, the reduction in stress levels tied to gardening is, at this point, well proven.
Body and Yard: Two Birds, One Stone :
One of the unique perks of gardening is the double-edged nature of its benefits. While you are improving your mental and physical health as well as your appearance, you are also improving the aesthetics of your yard and home, creating an alternate sense of pride and gratification. Many who rely solely upon the gym for their physical activity cannot say as much.
As you gain familiarity with gardening practices, you may begin to elevate the complexity of tasks, further increasing your sense of accomplishment as a green thumb. Clearing room for a garden, weeding the yard, and planting seeds or started seedlings are great beginner steps which will always be necessary to maintain a yard.
Eventually, you may graduate to establishing an island bed. According to one master gardener, these freestanding gardens, often surrounded by grass, carry the benefit of looking great regardless of which angle they are viewed from, and will help take your landscaping to a new level of sophistication and beauty.
As you build upon your knowledge and become increasingly able to physically take on newer, more rigorous gardening activities, you will enjoy new benefits in terms of satisfaction and health perks.
Gardening is often seen as a leisure or vanity activity for those looking to get out of the house or improve their home’s appearance. Both cases are often true. However, the benefits to one’s mental and physical well-being which gardening provides are reason alone to take up the hobby. Particularly for those looking to get in shape or ease their depression and/or anxiety, gardening can be the ideal, ever-available reprieve from life’s stressors.
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