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Garth’s guide to keeping physically and mentally fit in the garden

Posted by Garth the Wizard, on May 9, 2022.

Tucking your hands into the soil and feeling the sun on your face while moving around in the garden has lots of benefits for your physical and mental health. Being outside and surrounded by nature whether that’s in your garden or patio is an enjoyable activity suitable for all ages and abilities.

People with disabilities, people who are unwell, older people and children can find it especially rewarding to spend time in the garden tending plants and growing their own food. Growing a plant from seed to harvest is a very rewarding and relaxing process. It’s an enjoyable form of activity, maintains mobility and flexibility, and encourages the use of all motor skills through walking, reaching, bending, digging, planting seeds and taking cuttings. Gardening improves endurance and strength, reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation.

Physical benefits of gardening

Gardening is considered to be moderate exercise by the American Heart Association, and you can easily burn the same number of calories gardening as you would at the gym. Digging, raking, and mowing are particularly effective as you’re constantly moving. Not only can you burn calories, but in the end, you’ll have a beautiful garden to show for it!

Not only is it fun and relaxing, but there is no diet involved to lose weight. Making some small changes like pushing a mower rather than a ride-on mower can burn more calories. Also, cutting a hedge with manual clippers rather than an electric trimmer is much better for building arm strength. Gardening also will increase your hand strength. Pulling weeds, digging, sowing seeds and carrying compost will all benefit you.

A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that low-level physical activities such as gardening are associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease. In particular, the study found that people who engaged in low-level activities like gardening for less than one hour per week reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 12 per cent. Those who engaged in these activities for more than two hours per week reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 37 per cent.

Growing your own veggies will make you more likely to eat them. If your kids are fussy eaters, why not try getting them to grow their own from seed? Not only does homegrown produce taste much better, but nurturing a tiny seed all the way to a crop is extremely rewarding – they won’t be able to say no!

Like with all exercise, take care not to overdo it. Especially if you’re new to gardening. It’s best to garden in short intervals rather than hours at a time to reduce back and neck aches. Just 10 minutes of moderate activities throughout the day can benefit your health. For instance, rather than weed the entire garden at one time, try doing it for 10 to 15 minutes. If you find that your back and neck are struggling with the bending, try a raised garden bed. Take days off in between to allow your body to recover.

Mental health benefits of gardening

‘Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.’ There is nothing quite like harvesting your first crop of the season, especially when you’ve nurtured a tiny seed or seedling for months. This rewarding process is hard work but it all pays off. In 2014, researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School analysed mental health data from 1,000 urban residents and used high-resolution mapping to track where the subjects had lived over 18 years. They found that people living near green spaces reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment.

In 2021, the RHS released research that revealed those who garden every day have well-being scores 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than people who don’t garden at all. Surveying more than 6000 people the research showed a significant association between gardening more frequently and improvements in well-being perceived stress and physical activity.

If you have an allotment you will likely gain friends and enjoy the social side of gardening. Swapping seedlings, sharing crops and chatting to other gardeners over a cup of tea can really boost your mood. Gardening with others in a community garden can give you a sense of purpose and drive to achieve an end goal. It also provides a sense of belonging and acceptance for those who may otherwise feel isolated.

Boost your self-esteem with gardening. The act of gardening and seeing the results of your efforts – whether that’s a vegetable harvest, a beautiful floral display, or simply a neat lawn – can offer a sense of improved confidence in your own ability.

If you don’t have your own outdoor space, you can visit public gardens. Meandering around beautiful rows of flowers and hedges is a relaxing way to spend your free time. Walking around a garden or park will help keep you fit, which can improve your enjoyment of life. Take a friend or visit with your family to make it a social activity.

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