If you’ve tried adding a workout, fitness video, or the gym to your daily routine and failed, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a reason for it. According to Naveed Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, “The key thing [to a successful fitness routine] is sustainability. The way to keep exercising is to do something you love – such as gardening – or do something for a reason, such as walking or cycling to work.”
The idea is to create an added benefit or purpose to your exercise. This can mean walking or biking as a regular form of transportation or harvesting fresh tomatoes and beans from your backyard. Sattar recommends gardening: “Gardening is great – it gets you outside, it helps build muscle and it burns calories.”
All it takes is a backyard, front yard, small plot of soil, or access to a community garden to get started. And while potted plants on a balcony or entryway may yield positive benefits to your mental health (and maybe a few tomatoes), they aren’t big enough to give you the physical exertion needed for weight loss or physical fitness.
Boost Mood And Fight Depression
There are benefits to gardening that extend beyond the physical – and these can come from a large section of tilled soil or a collection of potted herbs. Apparently, growing plants can boost your mood and reduce the symptoms of depression. According to Psychology Today, gardening releases the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for a sense of relaxation. In addition, levels of cortisol, which are known to trigger stress, are reduced. Gardening can even be a therapeutic pastime for people in addiction recovery. It’s a hobby that involves exercise and sunshine, which both offer emotional benefits for those moving past substance abuse issues.
Gardening For Chronic Pain
Gardeners that aren’t restricted to containers may also find that the physical effort of weeding, digging, and planting helps to relieve chronic pain. As a low-impact exercise, gardening can provide an alternative to more vigorous physical activities while improving dexterity by strengthening the muscles and tendons in the hands, wrists, and fingers.
Gardening Can Improve Your Diet
An added benefit of growing fruits, veggies, and herbs is that you can choose not to spray them with harsh chemicals and pest repellents, giving you a beautiful backyard harvest of organic produce. By enjoying the “fruits” of your labor, you’ll improve your diet, which will support those fitness and weight loss benefits we talked about. Not only that, you’ll save money at the supermarket, where organic and non-GMO fare are increasingly expensive.
With all these benefits, both mental and physical, it’s no wonder that gardening as an American pastime is growing by leaps and bounds. As of 2016, 74% of US households were involved in gardening of some sort. That’s a whole lot of stress-reduction, physical fitness, and mental health protection. So whether you choose to add a vegetable bed, an herb garden or an island bed of flowers set apart from your current landscaping, consider taking advantage of all the benefits gardening has to offer.