Why Gardening is Great for your Health

It's no secret the great outdoors is great for your health. Find out why from three Australian wellness experts.

Since ancient times, gardens have been considered healing spaces, allowing people to roam freely, think silently and breathe deeply. However, for most of us gardening time means an hour on the weekend or a few frenzied days per season.

We asked the experts about the most common health benefits of gardening so you may be more inspired to get your hands dirty this weekend!

1. It's a Practical Workout

"From an energy perspective, a 60kg person walking briskly for 30 minutes will burn approximately 527kJ, and when gardening approximately 284 kJ's," explains nutritionist, author and founder of Nutritional Edge, Zoe Bingley-Pullin. "Energy aside, lifting, pulling and swinging all work on muscle tone and core strength and you will likely feel muscles you previously had no idea of!" she says.

2. Soak Up those Rays

"Gardening allows you to spend more time outside in the sun, which helps increase the body's ability to produce vitamin D," explains Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea. "You need this essential nutrient for healthy bones and teeth, for a strong immune system, and to help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and depression."

3. It Reduces Stress

Taking time out in the fresh air doing a mindful activity such as gardening is an easy way to reduce stress levels. Studies have shown being in nature can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol so taking a break during the day to tend to your garden or end your day in the backyard is an excellent way to give your body some time out to relax and unwind.  In today's society, we are ‘on' 24/7 so acting to preserve our mental wellbeing is critical, experts agree. 

"Gardening is a complex activity which encompasses all aspects of health and wellness in a process that achieves both therapeutic and preventive measures for both body and soul while experiencing the joys of nature," explains Sydney-based GP Dr. Jillian Forer.

4. It's Fruitful - in More Ways then One!

Gardening allows you to grow your food, free from pesticides and herbicides. "What better way to look after your health than to eat fresh, seasonal, organic fruits, veggies and herbs from your garden?" asks Lisa. "According to a pilot study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute 2015, pesticide levels decreased in urine samples taken from a family that switched from a non-organic diet to an organic diet," she continues. "Eating organic reduces the levels of some chemicals which our food exposes us to, which can help reduce any damaging long-term health effects."

5. A Total Sensory Experience

Gardening can evoke feelings of connection, grounding and a sense of purpose within a larger reality. "Contact between your skin and ground whether it be grass or soil is an act of 'earthing,'" explains Zoe, "a fast-growing movement linking the connection to earth's natural energy with vibrant health."

Gardening simultaneously enhances each sense, explains Dr. Jill. "Sight by the vision of the vast green and blue open spaces, sound by birdsong and the rustle of leaves, touch by the textures of foliage and soil, taste by sampling the fruits of your labour and smell through the fragrance of blossoms."

6. Rest and Relaxation

"Breathing in and out fresh air when gardening is a way to slow down the nervous system and switch our body into rest and digest mode," Zoe explains. "There is also some suggestion exposure to bacteria found within soil can trigger the release of serotonin, our neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and relaxation," she adds, "so it may be time to take the gardening gloves off!"

7. A Sense of Self

It's undeniable that nurturing your plants will lead to feelings of love, fulfillment and feeling proud that you have nurtured seedlings into a new life form, Zoe points out. "Similarly, knowing where your food comes from can increase your appreciation for it and allow you to feel more satisfied with less."

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