Spring has finally arrived in Northwest Arkansas, and the redbuds are blooming. It’s warm enough to plant seedlings or seeds outside now. Rising food prices and seeing your friends’ gardens on Instagram might already have you thinking about doing some gardening yourself, but there’s another reason to take the plunge: it’s good for your health.
Get out in the fresh air
Plenty of studies have shown that being out in nature reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and makes people feel less anxious and less depressed. Most of us won’t be surprised by this. As long as you’re safe, scientists have found, being outside makes you feel better and even has measurable benefits for physical health.
Your vegetable garden is a safe space outdoors. Fresh air and the scents of the plants boost your mood. And unlike hiking or swimming, you can do a little work in your garden any time you have a few minutes to spare.
Garden tasks you can do in five minutes or less:
- Plant some seeds.
- Pull some weeds.
- Label your plants.
- Stake plants that are getting tall, or give them a tomato cage or trellis to climb up.
- Add some top-dressing — a little extra compost on the top of a container or bed.
- Thin some seedlings. Add what you remove to your salad!
If you walk the dog, bike to work, or run around the block, you know the benefits of regular exercise. Gardening counts as exercise, too!
The CDC counts gardening as moderate exercise. A University of Arkansas study found that gardening increased bone density — it was the only activity other than weight lifting that did, in their study.
Obviously, more vigorous tasks like digging and raking are more likely to increase your heart rate. But one of the benefits of gardening as exercise is that people are more likely to spend more time doing it. Compared with running and walking, gardening got people moving for an extra 45- 60 minutes a week. More frequent exercise can be more beneficial for your health.
Eat those veggies
Growing flowers gets you out in the air and moving, but growing vegetables has the added advantage of giving you vegetables to eat.
You can buy veggies at the store, but studies show that people eat more homegrown vegetables. Kids eat five times more produce if they help to grow it, but the same results have been seen in studies of adults.
There may be some extra attachment to the fruit of our own labors, but it’s also true that vegetables fresh from the garden taste better. It’s also more convenient to step out the kitchen door and pick a tomato or a head of lettuce. A lot of the fresh produce we buy at the grocery store wilts before we get it on the table.
With a vegetable garden in your backyard, you can easily keep fresh veggies on the table every day. Even a few containers on your patio will produce enough tomatoes, peppers, and herbs to supply your family this summer.
Give it a try — your heart will thank you!