two women and a man working in a community garden

Health Benefits of Starting a Garden

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

OUTDOOR GARDENING OFFERS MANY BENEFITS BESIDES FRESH GARDEN VEGETABLES

Don’t you love it when something you’ve always believed to be true is actually proven by research? I’m one of those people who believes outdoor gardening is good for the mind, body, and soul. Now a growing body of evidence supports this notion, too.

I’m not just talking about planting garden vegetables so you can reap all of the nutritional benefits that go with them. Studies show starting a garden is good for you no matter what you grow, or where.

Gardening and Weight Control

The latest study to support my theory was published this month in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers from the University of Utah found people who tended community gardens weighed less than their neighbors, siblings and spouses who didn’t.

Community gardens have already been shown to provide social benefits to those who till them and nutritional benefits to all who eat the harvest. This study confirms that those who get their hands dirty also have lower body mass indexes (BMI) and lower odds of being overweight or obese.

The study only looked at a small community in Utah, so cannot be interpreted to be true for the population at large, but I think we can expect to see similar results when a larger study is conducted.

Another thing the study does not answer is whether lower weight people are drawn to gardening, or whether gardening makes them lighter? What do you think?

Gardening and Mental Health

A study just published in Psychological Sciences, the journal of the Association for Psychological Sciences, made a strong case for the benefits of gardens, even if you don’t til them. It found people who live near parks, gardens or other green space report a greater sense of well-being than city dwellers who don’t get to see much outdoor greenery.

The researchers analyzed data collected from households in the United Kingdom and found individuals who lived in greener areas reported less mental distress and higher satisfaction with life. This more positive outlook held up even across differences in income, employment, marital status, physical health and housing type.

This study did not prove that moving to a greener neighborhood will make you happier, but does support findings from other research that shows short bouts of time in green space can improve mood and cognitive functioning.

Since April is National Garden Month, I can’t think of a better time to get outside and do some gardening. Whether you plant vegetables, flowers, herbs, shrubs, trees or grass, starting garden is good for your health!

Psychological Benefits of Gardening

  • Nurture your natural instincts
  • Cultivate your sense of patience
  • Explore your creativity
  • Relieve your stress
  • Lessen your anxiety
  • Improve your mood

Physical Benefits of Gardening

  • Eat more fresh produce!
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Burn some calories
  • Breathe in fresh air
  • Make vitamin D from sunshine
  • Sleep more soundly

What’s growing in your garden?

8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the blog here.

The cold and dark winter months make it easy to gain unwanted weight. We’re less likely to be active outdoors and find ourselves tempted by all the leftovers from those food-filled winter holidays when stuck indoors. Use these 8 ways to lose weight with the start of spring so you can be back in shape by summer.

Plant a Garden

Planting your own vegetables and herbs in a small garden plot or individual containers helps you shed your winter weight in two ways. First you’ll get the exercise of tilling the soil and pulling the weeds, then you’ll reap the benefits of your harvest – nutritious, low calorie plants you can enjoy all summer long.See related story: Health Benefits of Starting a Garden

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Clean the Cupboards

Losing the weight you’ve gained over the winter months is easier when your cupboards are free of the “high calorie clutter” still on the shelves. Be sure to remove anything that remains from your secret stash of Halloween candy, Christmas cookies and Valentine’s chocolates to begin your spring cleaning. See related story: Kitchen Makeover Means a Healthier Diet in the New Year

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Buy More Berries

Spring is the start of berry season, and with it the chance to load up on these delicious little fruits that have so many benefits in very few calories. Their high fiber content helps keep you satisfied longer while their phytonutrients lower the risk for cancer, heart disease and stroke.

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Use Paper Plates

Switching to a 9 inch paper plate for dinner is a great way to reduce the portion sizes you eat. Try it for a month to retrain your eye to recognize more appropriate serving sizes. You can also use an 8 ounce paper cup and 12 ounces bowl to replace the bigger cups and bowls you normally use. See related story: Serving Size, Portion Size, and Body Size Are All Connected

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Start a Diary

Keeping a record of everything you eat and drink, and how much, is a tried and true method to control overeating. It makes you pay attention to each bite you take when you know you have to write it in your diary. See related story: Keeping Track of Food, Calories & Fitness Just Got Easier!

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Specialize in Salads

If all you think of when you hear the word salad is a boring toss of iceberg lettuce and tasteless tomatoes, think again. There are endless combinations of colorful and crunchy vegetables that can be combined with lean protein sources and topped with flavorful dressings to make satisfying entrée salads that are anything but boring. See related story: Celebrate National Salad Month With Easy, Healthy, Delicious, Salads

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Practice Good Posture

A much overlooked way to burn more calories is to stand instead of sit. Every minute you spend standing uses more energy than sitting, so take advantage of this practical way to lose excess weight. By adjusting your posture when you stand you can also improve your muscle tone and balance. See related story: Sitting Too Much Raises the Risk of Dying Sooner

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Sleep Like a Baby

Research has shown that people who do not get enough sleep consume more calories than they need and have slower metabolisms. There are no short cuts to a good night’s sleep. It’s essential to good health and maintaining a healthy weight. See related story: Tired All the Time? 11 reasons Why (Besides Lack of Sleep)

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