5 benefits of gardening you may not know

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It’s gardening season! Starting a garden is a great idea, especially if you love nature and the outdoors. Also, did you know that aside from getting fresh fruits, vegetables and beautiful flowers, gardening has been found to relieve stress, tension and even increase your self-esteem?

If you’re a first-time gardener, learn all you can about the basics. You may need to be familiar with the type of plants that grow in Manitoba soil and weather, as well as the specific ways to take care of them. Start by reading A Community Gardener Guidebook compiled by the North End Community/North End Community Network. You’ll learn so many tips and tricks – know where to get free seeds, ways to start a garden (even in a limited space), and the best plants to grow each season. The guidebook also offers plenty of online resources for related information. There are also many nutrition, cooking and gardening programs in Winnipeg you can join for free.

If the reasons I mentioned above are not enough to get you into gardening, here are five more benefits you may not know:

  1. Prevents depression

    The combination of physical activity, awareness of natural surroundings, and cognitive stimulation lifts your mood and reduces stress. Who can be depressed when surrounded by fresh greenery and beautiful flowers? Just thinking about this will liven up anyone’s mood. And just imagine that feeling of accomplishment if you actually made these beautiful plants and flowers grow yourself! This is probably why many now swear by horticultural therapy, a field that helps people cope with anxiety, depression, even heart disease and post-surgery recovery by gardening. If you are prone to depression, experts suggest building a garden that has a combination of fruits, scented flowers and herbs. The experience will nourish the senses and stimulate thought.

  2. Strengthens your immune system

    Sun exposure will allow you to soak up Vitamin D. The vitamin promotes bone health as well as protects you from infections and other illnesses. Just be mindful that too much direct sunlight on your skin can also be bad for you. Remember to use sunscreen and take breaks. Even in short periods, Vitamin D, fresh air and moderate physical activity are good for your health.

  3. Increases brain health and prevents Alzheimer’s

    A long term study found that “daily gardening represented the biggest risk reduction for dementia , reducing incidence by 36%” (Lifestyle factors and risk of dementia: Dubbo study of the elderly, as cited from 6 unexpected health benefits of gardening, Robin Jacobs). Moreover, scientists say that gardening, like jogging, walking and dancing (or any form of physical activity) “leads to the reduction in the volume of gray matter in parts of the brain responsible for memory and cognition” (Is gardening the key to preventing Alzheimer’s? by Lisa Ryan).

  4. Improves hand strength and dexterity

    Puttering around with your trowel will use some of the muscles that keep your hands agile. Such movements can also help strengthen those muscles and improve your grip. Just be careful about overdoing it. When garden work becomes strenuous, you can get strain injuries, tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Remember always to use the right tools and take frequent breaks or switch to different activities to avoid muscle fatigue. Read 5 gardening hazards you should watch out for for other safe gardening tips.

  5. Encourages heart health and cuts stroke risk

    Again, it’s the moderate exercise afforded by gardening that promotes heart health and prevents you from sitting on your desk all day. In fact, a study in Stockholm showed that “regular gardening cuts stroke and heart disease by up to 30% for those over 60 years old” (Gardening as good as exercise in cutting heart attack risk, study shows, Alexandra Topping, The Guardian as cited from 6 unexpected health benefits of gardening, Robin Jacobs).

Happy gardening!

Sources: 6 unexpected health benefits of gardening, Robin Jacobs, Eartheasy; 6 reasons why gardening is good for you, Amanda Hawkins, Good Housekeeping; How Vitamin D influences the body’s immune system, Alan L. Rubin, Vitamin D for Dummies; and Is gardening the key to preventing Alzheimer’s? Lisa Ryan, Daily Mail. Retrieved May 28, 2018.

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