Relaxation, fitness, family fun and delicious food; sound like a dream vacation? It can also all be found in a simple backyard garden.
Gardening provides a total-body workout, allows us to literally reap what we’ve sowed, and provides us with an opportunity to reconnect with nature and our loved ones. The best part is you can eat the fruits of your labour.
Digging in the dirt benefits your mind, body, and soul—not just your soil. There are multiple benefits you can expect to reap by getting out in your garden.
We all know how important it is to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
No matter your age or lifestyle, gardening is an excellent way to boost physical activity – think of it as an outdoor gym workout. Getting out in the garden can help strengthen bones, muscles, and joints, decrease the likelihood of diseases including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke and promote longer, healthier lives.
If we are what we eat, growing our own food can make us healthier. Growing our own fresh produce gives us the opportunity to harvest foods when they are at their best, which allows them to accumulate as many nutrients as possible.
Numerous studies have also shown that children who actively participate in gardening and learn to grow their own food have a greater preference for, and increased consumption of, fruit and vegetables.
Likewise for adults, when we put the effort into choosing, growing and harvesting our own fruits and vegetables, we’re also far more likely to eat them.
Improve mental health
Not only is getting out in your garden good for your physical health, it also has a positive impact on your mental health too.
Research from all corners of the globe has found that gardeners have better sleep patterns, well-being and functioning, greater life satisfaction, enhanced self-esteem, and fewer feelings of depression and fatigue than non-gardeners.
While gardening requires working with our hands, it also gives our brains a workout, provides an outlet for creativity, and nurtures a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Planning and designing the layout of the garden, researching appropriate plants that thrive in our climate, and learning gardening techniques encourage us to problem solve and be creative.
Tips on working out while gardening:
- Do a full range of activities; incorporating endurance, flexibility, dexterity and strength
- Alternate between light and heavy activities such as digging, pruning, planting and watering
- Switch hands and change stance to use muscles on both sides of the body
- Use manual rather than electric tools if possible.
Protect yourself when you’re gardening
- Wear sunscreen and protective clothing including a hat, correct footwear and gloves
- Take regular breaks, stretch and change position often
- Bend at the knees and don’t strain when lifting heavy objects
- Drink plenty of water especially in warm weather
- Store garden tools and equipment safely
- Observe safety instructions when using potting mix, any sprays or fertilizers.
Katie Costain and Ben Freeman are the directors of Billygoat Landscape Architecture (BGLA), based in Canterbury and Wellington. For more information, visit www.bgla.co.nz