The steady, regular exercise that gardeners get is beneficial for building strength and helping with weight control. It doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t put a strain on your joints (although it’s wise to avoid over-doing it so you don’t get a bad back!)
Being out in the fresh air helps oxygenate your blood and gardening has been found to decrease stress levels, reduce blood pressure and help with anxiety and depression. It can also have social benefits – eg in community gardens and allotments.
Being in contact with the earth may have other benefits. Studies indicate that being too ‘clean’ can have an adverse impact on our immune systems. Certain beneficial soil borne organisms have been found to be good for gut health which, in turn, affects our health as a whole.
Home grown fruit and vegetables are extra good for you
We all know that eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit is good for us, but home grown produce punches well above its weight compared with shop bought. For a start it is much fresher – it hasn’t gone through the process of being picked, packaged, transported, stored, retailed and then stored by us at home, by which time (even before it’s cooked) the original nutrient content has diminished significantly. Add that to the fact that it has almost certainly been grown in mineral deficient soils, sprayed with commercial pesticides, unless it’s organic, and it’s easy to see why fresh, home grown produce is much higher in vitamins and minerals than most fruit and veg we buy in shops and supermarkets.
Most commercial crop varieties are chosen for appearance and storage qualities, not for nutritional content, so the vegetables, salads, juices and smoothies that you get from garden produce really do contribute much more to your health – and they taste a lot better too!
Helping wildlife and the environment
Many of our native species of birds, insects and wildlife have declined dramatically in number over the past few decades, primarily as a result of loss of habitat. Gardens can provide a great ecosystem to help support our wildlife. It’s also satisfying, rewarding and enjoyable for the whole family to get closer to nature and know that you are doing your bit to help. By cutting down on food miles, making your own compost and collecting rainwater, you are helping conserve precious resources and the environment.
Adopt a ‘Blue Zone’ lifestyle
Longevity expert and National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner has researched the lifestyles of people living in so-called ‘Blue Zones’, areas where a much higher than average number of the population live beyond 100 and are much less troubled by diseases associated with old age. They all have several things in common, including tending a garden and growing their own vegetables. They also all ate a high vegetable diet so the answer to good health and a long, active life may be right outside your back door!
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