Gardening is a hobby people of all ages and ability levels can enjoy. It’s simple and affordable, yet few have truly committed to caring for the soil. Many people are hesitant to start a garden because they’re convinced the plants would die or they simply don’t have the patience for it. But gardens aren’t just about the end product—the physical and mental health benefits you can gain along the way make digging in the dirt well worth your while!
Here are just a few of the many health benefits you’ll gain from growing a garden.
- Gardening makes great exercise: A common misconception is that exercise has to involve running on a treadmill or lifting weights at the gym. This notion couldn’t be farther from the truth. Gardening is a perfectly valid form of exercise! All the motions involved with gardening—pulling weeds, reaching for tools, standing, kneeling—work a variety of muscle groups without you realizing it. Gardening also improves strength, endurance and flexibility, especially for older adults seeking a mild form of exercise.
- Strengthen your immune system: Outdoor gardens expose you to sunlight, which is a vital source of vitamin D. This key nutrient gives your immune system a boost and reduces your likelihood of getting sick. As little as 30 minutes of gardening can satisfy your recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Summer is the perfect opportunity to plant vegetables or eye-catching flowers while soaking up some rays!
- Improve cognitive function: Gardening has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline in a person’s later years. It keeps both the mind and body active, which many people struggle with as they age. Community gardens, in particular, provide opportunities for socialization and help older adults combat loneliness. Gardening restores a sense of purpose beyond retirement and gives older adults a long-term goal. The activity cultivates focus and keeps the mind sharp.
- Develop strong bones: Sunlight boosts more than your immune system! Increased vitamin D production has been linked to higher calcium levels, which is an essential nutrient for maintaining a strong skeletal system. Everyone needs to maintain bone strength, regardless of their stage in life. Calcium aids childhood development and protects older adults from degenerative bone disorders. Next time you reach for a glass of milk, get outside and drink up the sun instead!
- Gardening is a stress reliever: We all know by now that exercise is the best mood booster of all. Working in a garden combines mild, relaxing exercise with being outside in nature. Getting your hands dirty makes you feel more connected to the earth and raises serotonin levels in the process. The hobby can even help people manage systems of mood disorders and serve as holistic treatment alongside traditional medicine. You don’t have to be a gardening expert, either—planting a couple flowers in the front yard does wonders for your mental wellbeing.
- Build your self-confidence: Many are discouraged from gardening by the notion that all their hard work will be for nothing. But with a little practice, gardens can produce plentiful bounties that supply your household with fruits, herbs and vegetables. Gardening instills a sense of confidence because it produces tangible rewards for your efforts and proves you’re capable of putting beauty into the world. Plus, you get to literally enjoy the fruits of your labor!
- Gardens produce healthy foods: Depending on what you choose to grow, gardens can get you excited about pursuing a healthier diet. After weeks of tending to a garden, anyone would look forward to picking the perfect ruby red tomato to slice onto their salad. Flavorful herbs like rosemary and mint can inspire you to create dishes at home rather than ordering takeout. You know exactly where the produce came from, ensuring no pesticides or genetic modifications were used in the process.
- You’ll make new friends: You don’t have to garden by yourself at home! Community gardens connect you with people who share similar interests and can help develop your gardening skills. Humans are social creatures, and gardening is the perfect excuse to get involved in your local community.
You don’t need much to start your own garden. Pick up a shovel, watering can and pack of seeds from any home improvement store and find a good spot in your backyard. If you don’t know how and where to start, there’s a friendly community of gardeners to help you along the way. What’s most important is that you have fun and enjoy the ample health and wellness benefits the hobby has to offer.