Here in the Northeast, gardening is limited to less than half the year. Between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall, happy gardeners come out in full force to sow some seeds, tend their plants, and await the harvest.

Gardening can be rewarding and beneficial in so many ways. Whether your preference is fruits, vegetables, flowers, or bushes, getting back to basics and digging in the dirt can do wonders for us. The benefits of gardening can impact both your physical and mental health.

Physical benefits of gardening

  • Gardening gets you moving. Movement and physical activity are key to your health. Increasing physical activity is good for your heart, brain, immune system and joints.
  • All that digging builds strength and muscle tone, which helps you as you age.
  • Being outdoors can increase your Vitamin D levels, also known as the sunshine vitamin and an important factor in your overall health.
  • Growing your own vegetables will help increase your intake of these nutrition powerhouses that are vital for your body’s health and functioning.

Mental health benefits of gardening

While gardening offers many physical benefits, it can also have an impact on your overall mental health and well-being.

Dr. Sandra Musial, a pediatrician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, oversees the hospital’s Rainbow Garden. Dr. Musial says, “Gardening is great way to relax; it can even be a form of meditation as you weed, prune and tie up plants as they grow.”

In addition, gardening has been shown to

•    help improve memory

•    boost mood

•    reduce cortisol – a chemical that is produced in your body in response to stress

Dr. Musial adds, “Gardening has been shown to reduce stress, calm anxiety, and produce a sense of positive well-being. It also offers older folks an opportunity to contribute to their family's food. This can provide a sense of purpose, which is critical to longevity.”  

Teaching children to garden

“When you plant your own garden and tend to it as it grows, you are nurturing something  that will reward you with nutritious fruits and vegetables,” says Dr. Musial. Teaching children to garden can have both short- and long-term impacts to children’s overall well-being. She notes that children who are involved in the planting and care of a vegetable garden are much more likely to eat the vegetables that they grow themselves.

Teaching a child to garden is an activity that hopefully they will enjoy long into adulthood. It’s also a great family activity. Choose what to plant in your garden as a family, share responsibility for its care, and enjoy the “fruits” of your labor. Not only are you getting the benefits of gardening, but you are instilling good nutrition practices into your child’s diet, and your own.

Happy gardening!

For more information on nutrition tips, visit the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.