The Health Benefits of Gardening
In the spring, there’s new reason to dig in the dirt, green up your thumb, and tend to a garden. We all know we should get more exercise, but that doesn’t have to mean hours at the gym. The simple act of gardening is a great way to be active and relieve stress too.
A first-of-its-kind study looked at the effects of community produce gardens on several health measures and found that people who garden:
- Consumed more fiber-rich foods
- Spent more time being physically active
- Reported greater reduction in perceived stress and anxiety
Community gardens, in general, have been gaining popularity, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have they helped promote greater food security, they beautify neighborhoods and help bring people together and outside in nature. Previous studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower stress levels and boost other health outcomes.
In one study, a group given a community garden plot became more active, getting additional moderate or vigorous levels of activity each week. By growing their own fruits and vegetables, they also ate more fiber each day compared to other participants. A high fiber diet has been shown to lower the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.
Start Your Own Garden
Whether you’re new to gardening or have a trusty green thumb, the benefits are clear. Check with your local community centers, non-profits, or city government to see what shared community gardens are available to you. Or set aside some space in your own yard to create a backyard garden!
Gardening is an inexpensive activity that is great for the whole family to do together. Besides the increased physical activity, you will also get to reap the benefits of having nutritious fruits, vegetables, and herbs to bring home. If you need ideas on how to use your harvested haul, be sure to check the Diabetes Food Hub® for plenty of diabetes-friendly recipes. You can even consider freezing your produce for later.
But the benefits of gardening don’t apply only to growing fruits and vegetables! Planting and tending to beautiful plants, shrubs, and flowers still provides plenty of health benefits. No matter what you choose to grow, it can help improve your overall well-being by getting you active and moving while also helping lower feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you are looking for more ways to get active and live a healthier life, sign up for the American Diabetes Association’s Healthy Living e-newsletter for monthly tips and advice delivered to your inbox every month.
Written by Amanda Crowe, MA, MPH