Master Gardener, Helen Reagin engages in physical activity by pruning in the garden

Health Benefits of Gardening

By Mia Wilchcombe, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

In addition to providing nutritious fruits and vegetables, gorgeous landscaping and beautiful flowers for decoration, gardening offers a variety of health benefits. Fall is the perfect time to dig deep into the soil and start reaping all of the rewards that gardening can bring.

Emotional Well-being

Gardening is a great way to maintain your emotional well-being. Healthcare professionals use gardening as a tool for therapy. Therapeutic gardening, sometimes referred to as horticulture therapy, uses gardening techniques in order to improve physical, psychological, and social well-being of individuals. It allows the gardener to recognize the positive effects they have on something in order to shift focus away from themselves. This form of therapy has been around since the 19th century. According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was one of the first to document the positive effects that gardening had on individuals with mental illness.

Exercise

Are you having trouble finding ways to increase or enhance your exercise regimen? Gardening is a great way to increase your physical activity and burn calories. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise can improve your overall health, manage stress and reduces your risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression and certain types of cancers. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on a weekly basis. Children should engage in 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Moderate-intensity activity includes; brisk walking, water aerobics, bicycling, ballroom dancing and gardening. Certain gardening activities such as raking, digging and pulling weeds can burn about 150-200 calories in 30 minutes for a person weighing 150 pounds.

Eating Healthy

Gardeners that plant edibles such as herbs, fruits and vegetables tend to be more health conscious. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, sodium and fat. Fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Fiber maintains adequate bowel function, keep us full, and helps to lower cholesterol.  Phytonutrients help protect plants from potential damage such as ultraviolent radiation, pest, toxins and pollution. Once we consume them, they help to protect us against free radical damage. In order to meet the USDA dietary guidelines for American’s, we should fill half of our plate with a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables for each meal.

Planting edibles in your home garden makes healthy eating more accessible and affordable. You could save money on your grocery bill each month!  There is no need to get in the car and waste gas. Just open your door and pick your favorite fruit or vegetable and eat it right in your garden. Best of all, you have the power to pick at seasonal best which allows for rich flavor and optimal taste.

How to Start?

Unsure of how to start a garden? Having difficulty with your current garden and don’t know what to do? Maybe you do not have enough space, but still want to reap the benefits of gardening? Visit http://www.solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/lawn_and_garden/ for all of your landscape and gardening needs. Gardening in Florida can possess some challenges, allow the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension to help with research-based information. If you want to learn more about vegetable gardening, join Extension Agents, Brooke Moffis and Mia Wilchcombe along with Master Gardeners to learn what vegetables grow best in the Florida garden and explore healthy ways to use them in your kitchen. Much Ado about Veggies will be held November 18th from 9am to 12pm and costs $10 to attend. Register online  or call 352-343-4101 ext. 2719.

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