How many ways can gardening improve your health?
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Google “nutritional benefits” and the first items that pop up are all veggies. Kale, mushrooms and beets all top the list. All those foods are good for you (save poisonous varieties of mushrooms!) but what’s missing from that list are the nutritional benefits of the place those foods come from: the garden.
Americans are no strangers to gardens, though it may feel that way now. During World War II, there were more than 20,000,000 “Victory Gardens” all over the United States. By 1944, Victory Gardens produced 40% of all produce in the US. These gardens weren’t solely in rural areas or suburbs; city dwellers grew food in window boxes or in rooftop gardens. School children tended gardens on their school grounds and used the produce in their lunches.
The war ended and the Victory Gardens soon became a thing of the past. If only we’d kept them. Who knows what better access to fresh food and a true understanding of where that food comes from would do for our nation today. The nutritional value of food coming from a garden is only part of what benefits us. So in honor of National Gardening Month, here are a few of the many benefits to gardening.
Five Ways A Garden Benefits Health
Gardening can lower your blood pressure.
Moderate physical activity and a diet high in fruits and vegetables are two of the most vital changes to make when trying to prevent or control high blood pressure. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests engaging in 30 to 45 minutes of daily gardening in their guide to lowering blood pressure.
They also recommend four to five daily servings (each) of vegetables and fruits. The closer to the source, the more nutritious a food generally is, so when you eat from a garden you’re getting even more of what’s good for you. A few foods that are easy to grow for beginners are radishes, bok choy and strawberries. And all of them are good for lowering blood pressure!
Gardening can help your kid’s eyes develop and prevent myopia. Shortsightedness is endemic in parts of southeast Asia. In Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, more than 80 percent of 20-year olds have myopia. The long-persistent myth is that spending too much time reading books or staring at computer screens causes myopia.
Now, researchers believe the culprit is too much time spent indoors. They’re still not sure what it is about being outside, specifically, that prevents myopia. Some researchers suspect the sunlight is stimulating the release of dopamine from the retina, which prevents elongation of the eyeball – which in turn causes myopia.
Time spent in the garden provides a needed break from devices, gets kids out of the house, and keeps their eyes sharp.
Gardening can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
It’s not a secret that Americans struggle with obesity. 69 percent of adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese. In Georgia, almost 17 percent of 10 to 17 year olds are obese. Our nation (and our state!) can do better than this.
Forget fad diets or crash programs for a moment. Simple, slow, and satisfying is the way to plan a diet and exercise plan for better health. Starting a garden, especially a community garden, can have a huge impact on health. Tending to your garden gets you outside and engaged in physical activity. The CDC says that even moderate physical exercise, if undertaken regularly, can decrease the risk of obesity and high blood pressure, reduces your risk of heart disease and some cancers… the list goes on. Exercise is the best kind of medicine.
In addition to the benefits of exercise, you’ve got access to fresh fruits and vegetables. If you have an abundance of something, you’ll enjoy sharing it with friends and neighbors. They’ll enjoy the gift and the nutritional benefits.
There are many more benefits to gardening and time spent outside. There are too many to list here. But it’s National Garden Month, so in the waning hours of April, take some time to read about them.