Gardening for Health

According to the National Garden Association and the Garden to Table 2014 report on American food gardening 15 million American families with children grow their own food. This is a 2 million increase from 2008 and shows that food gardening has been growing in popularity. Why?

There could be many reasons why families have taken an interest in gardening including a plethora of health benefits. Gardening is also a great way to teach kids about food and nutrition.Over the next few months I will write 5 blog posts on gardening, why kids should get involved, and how you and your family can get started.

This month’s blog post will discuss 5 ways that gardening is good for ourselves and for the community.

1.) It’s Sustainable!

Gardening is a part of sustainability, but what is sustainability? Sustainability is an umbrella term that encompasses many disciplines and initiatives to protect the environment. One definition is to “endure” or to “sustain” our way of life, maximizing earth’s resources, and protecting creation for our children’s generation.

As part of sustainability gardening helps to:

  • Reduce pesticide exposure and residue in soil.
  • Decrease distance traveled between the garden and your table since most urban gardens will be in your back yard, community, or home.
  • Shorter distance equals less fuel and less carbon emissions into the air.

Tip: Plant foods that your kids will love, that can grow where you live, and that is on the Dirty Dozen List. The dirty dozen is the top 12 produce that is grown with the most pesticides.

2.) Exercise Alternative!

Common nutrition advice to populations usually encourage 2 1/2 hours of moderate aerobic activity for adults and older adults each week. This is about 60 minutes three times a week or 30 minutes five days a week. For children and teens it is about 60 minutes every day.

This may seem intimidating at first, but it’s attainable. Gardening is one unique way to get in those 30 minutes a day. Examples include: planting, hoeing, digging, raking, uprooting, pulling, weeding, and lifting.

3.) Increases fruit/veggie consumption

Families who grow food in their back yard are more likely to consume more fruits/vegetables than those who do not. People are more likely to make good choices when the option is placed in front of them and they have taken the time to grow them themselves. A 2009 review of 11 studies on gardening and eating habits in children showed that growing their own food made it more likely that children would try new foods (The Journal of the American Dietetics Association).

4.) Mental/Emotional Health

Gardening has been shown to decrease stress and increase a positive attitude by going back to nature. Staying inside all day playing or working on computers, talking on telephones, and going on line increases the noise in our environments and thus creates stress. Being in nature has been shown to decrease that stress because it removes the “noise” in our environments.

5.) Spiritual Health

Spiritual health refers to our ability to connect with the world around us, realizing how everything in life is connected to one another. Gardening can help to bring us back to nature and increase our awareness of the world around us bringing calm and peace.

In my next blog I will be talking about 7 reasons for gardening with kids. Some of those reasons will overlap with this one, but others will differ.