By Misti Warner-Andersen
Spring has fully arrived in Northern Arizona and, if you haven’t already started, it’s time to plant your garden.
The prospect of beautiful flowers and home-grown vegetables is probably motivation enough to go play in the dirt, but if you need another reason, how about this: numerous studies show you will be healthier, and live longer, if you garden.
One main reason is that foods you grow yourself are tastier and slightly more nutritious than their supermarket counterparts. Vegetables like peppers and green beans have nutrients that can degrade in transport – losing some of their healthful properties on the way to your table.
Ever tasted a homegrown tomato fresh from the garden? It’s nothing like ones you buy from the store, because store tomatoes often are picked “green” to allow them to survive the trip to your market. That early picking, however, means they haven’t had a chance to fully develop their flavor.
If your fruits and vegetables are tastier, you are likely to eat more of them, meeting federal guidelines to generally increase your intake of fresh, unprocessed foods. And if you are worried about our short season, please know that Warner’s selection of fruits and vegetables are specifically suited to high-altitude growing. We can also help you with what you need to grow organically, making sure your food is chemical-free.
Diet and nutrition aren’t the only reason that gardening promotes good health. Numerous studies show a link between gardening and a happier, more stress-free life.
A Dutch study had 30 people perform a stressful mental task then randomly assigned them to either read or garden. The gardeners not only reported being in a much better mood than the readers, their levels of cortisol – the “stress hormone” – were significantly lower than the other group.
A long-term study in Australia followed almost 3,000 60-year olds for 16 years and showed that daily gardening tended to reduce the risk of dementia.
A third study, this one in the United States, indicated that gardeners – who get to see a physical manifestation of their work either in beautiful blooms, stately trees, or colorful fruits and vegetables – generally report greater self-esteem.
Lastly, there is the exercise benefit from getting up, getting out and getting to work in your garden. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend “moderate-intensity level activity” for about two and a half hours each week, which can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Gardening is one of the activities that meets the moderate-intensity threshold. And those who pick gardening as their preferred activity tend to exercise almost an hour longer each week than those who walk or bike.
Gardening helps keep you limber because it involves exercising both your arms and legs, with particular emphasis on hand dexterity and strength. But just like you would warm up your legs before a run, it’s important to stretch out your hands and to not push yourself too hard to avoid hand or wrist injuries. Those with knee issues might want to consider raised beds to make it easier on these joints. Finally, make sure you wear and use the appropriate gear, including gloves and well-designed tools to protect your hand and wrists. And don’t forget the sunscreen, although you might want to wait 10 minutes in the sun before you apply it, so you can benefit from the extra Vitamin D.
Lastly, gardening can be solitary or social, both of which have their benefits. A quiet hour or so in the garden can be just what you need after a hectic day. On the other hand, gardening can be a great family activity – I know it’s something I really enjoy with my sons!
If you are ready to get all the great health benefits from gardening, please make sure to visit us at Warner’s Nursery. We’ve got a great selection of plants for your garden and our friendly experts are always ready to answer your questions and provide guidance.
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