Gardening can have a huge impact on your health. Digging holes, pulling weeds, and tilling the soil are great exercise for your body. Plus, it can lead to lower levels of stress. And at the end of it all, you have a new source of healthy and delicious foods.
Lake Effect gardening contributor Melinda Myers offers helpful information on the health benefits of gardening. Myers is the author of numerous books, including Month-by-Month Gardening in Wisconsin and Can't Miss Small Space Gardening.
"Communities that have green spaces, the more green space, the lower the community health cost. So, they're seeing a reduction in illness and disease, and reducing those expenditures in health care by having green spaces," says Myers.
Research is now beginning to prove the effects of gardening as being a stress reliever and increasing focus to be true for both adults and children.
"If you go to the Arthritis Foundation, they talk a lot about gardening as a way to build strength and flexibility to help counteract. It's not going to eliminate arthritis, but it's going to help you live with it and be able to function more normally by exercising," she explains. "So it does build your body muscles."
Exercising by gardening is a good way for those who would rather spend time outside in nature rather than at the gym.
"I always call it a 'two-for-three-fer.' You're improving your garden, you're losing weight, and you're growing nutritious vegetables. And if you grow vegetables, you're more likely to eat them," Myers explains.
Whether it's raking or turning the soil, gardening can easily help burn calories and manage weight.
"Herbs not only flavor our food, but many of them fight some of the diseases. [They] help with inflammation, which is a problem with arthritis and many autoimmune diseases," she says.
Aromatherapy is a large part of gardening with health benefits. Myers notes that lavender can be used for relaxation and peppermint to make you more alert.
"There's a lot of things we call weeds that many cultures harvest as well as foragers," says Myers.
Before you pick a weed, make sure you're allowed to. Also, make sure you're aware whether the weed has been treated with some kind of pesticide.
Myers mentions that purslane, lambsquarters, and dandelions are edible and healthy plants.
Things to Avoid
While gardening has many health benefits for those with arthritis or other conditions, it's important to find ways to make gardening easier on the body. She recommends elevating your garden.
"Using raised beds [or] containers will get your garden up. It also reduces the sides, so [there are] fewer weeds to manage," suggests Myers. Aside from raised beds, she recommends wearing gloves, using kneepads, or a kneeler to help with the strains gardening can put on the body.
Myers will be at the Wisconsin State Fair in the We Energies Energy Park this week. She'll be talking about healthy gardening every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.