The health and wellness benefits of tending to a home garden

Having a garden at home is an idea that, for those who are very used to life in the city, may sound too remote or unlikely. However, it is not so uncommon not so hard to get. It is enough to have a small garden, a rented piece of land, a terrace or a balcony.

In addition, having and working in a garden provides a number of benefits. The most obvious are the products obtained from the garden itself: fresh and cheaper fruits and vegetables, without pesticides or other chemicals that contaminate both vegetables and the soil, and also available without leaving home.

There are many other advantages, for health and general well-being. Some of the most important ones are detailed below.

1. Demand physical activity

Taking care of a vegetable garden or a garden at home represents doing physical activity. It is true that it is not intense exercise, but it allows avoid a sedentary lifestyle to which modern life frequently induces us. And also the wear is not as little as you might imagine.

At least this is indicated by a report from Harvard University, United States, published last year. This work compared the calories burned when performing different activities, from sports to housework, depending on the body weight of each person.

Half an hour of gardening they consume about 135 calories for people of rather low weight (about 57 kilos), about 162 calories for people of average weight (70 kilos) and about 189 calories for people of higher weight (84 kilos). An expense similar to that of a walk at a moderate pace: at a speed of approximately one hundred meters per minute.

Of course, with these activities fewer calories are consumed than when performing intense physical activity, but considerably more than what is spent -for example- by play bowling or golf and even when dancing slow dances, such as the waltz and the foxtrot (practices that require 90 to 125 calories, depending on weight).

And, of course, much more than when sitting or lying down using the computer or watching television (which requires between 28 and 47 calories). Therefore, physical activity performed at work in the orchard or garden -in particular when they require a lot of movement, bending down and getting up, etc.- should not be neglected.

2. Reduce stress

Like many other manual activities, gardening helps reduce stress levels, both emotionally and physiologically. This was confirmed by a study that analyzed what happened to people who, after a stressful task, had thirty minutes outdoors to work with plants.

As part of the same test, another group of people, after the same task, had half an hour to read inside a room. researchers stress levels were measured both self-perceived and neuroendocrine, through the presence of cortisol (the so-called “stress hormone”) in saliva.

Both activities helped the experimenters relax, but those who gardened did so in a different way. significantly higher than those who dedicated themselves to reading.

3. Promotes contact with nature

Contact with nature provides many positive effects. If the care of indoor plants already allows this contact to a small extent, working in an orchard or a garden increases it, since it is generally a question of larger surfaces. And even more so if the vegetables or fruits obtained from these crops can then be consumed.

“The human being, in general, feels happier and more optimistic in a environment with lots of vegetation and nature”, affirms a document of the National Association of Recreation and Parks of the United States. For the authors of the work, green environments are “essential components of a healthy human habitat.”

Furthermore, a study conducted in Japan also pointed out that contact with nature contributes to a Decreased blood pressurethe heart rate and the activity of the nervous system, and also promotes the relaxation of the entire body.

4. It favors personal ties and the relationship with food

The orchard can be a very appropriate environment to spend quality family timeespecially if there are children. As highlighted in an article by the Educo organization, which specializes in children’s rights, developing a garden at home is an activity that favors shared time, trust and good communication.

Having an orchard allows you to know what the fruits and vegetables look like during their development. That is, it helps them know the origin of many foodssomething that is almost a mystery for many children who have always lived in the city.

And, in addition, the fact of having witnessed their growth and maturation is an incentive for children to try products those who would otherwise refuse. And for adults, an incentive to adopt a more natural and healthy diet.

5. Increases well-being and makes you happier

Being frequently in green spaces and the existence of “green views” through windows from inside the home “is associated with higher levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and subjective happiness and lower levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.”

That was the main conclusion of a study that analyzed data from 3,000 people about “the importance of being close to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic”, carried out by scientists from the University of Tokyo, in Japan, and published at the end of 2020.

During the pandemic, experts from the universities of Princeton and Minnesota, in the United States, also investigated whether gardening and urban gardens were related to the rates of emotional well-being and happiness of people. The result confirmed that yes, at levels similar to those of other recreational and healthy activities such as walking, cycling or going out to dinner.

Furthermore, this work added a very relevant piece of information: among fifteen recreational activities of this type, gardening was the only one in which women and low-income people reported higher emotional well-being than men and middle- and upper-income participants, respectively.

The research director, Anu Ramaswami, emphasized the importance of such a finding, noting that “people with lower incomes tend to have less access to healthy food options”.

For this reason, he explained, gardening and horticulture “could provide the benefits that fresh fruits and vegetables have for health”, in addition to “promoting physical activity and increasing emotional well-being”. And all this would give rise to a “virtuous circle”, since those good feelings would serve to “reinforce this behavior”.

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