Why Gardening is Good For You

Gardening is good for your mind, body & soul.

In the current situation we all find ourselves in, attention has turned to the garden and gardening. Many of the population already know of the benefits of gardening - around 24 million people regularly work in their gardens - but many more are joining this green army of hobbyists. And for good reason - it’s good for both your physical and mental health. 

There’s a lot of gardening about: if you stitched all the domestic gardens in the UK together they would be roughly the same size of Somerset. 

The Physical Benefits of Gardening

Physical exercise is a must for overall health. After a day in the garden, you will have muscles aching that you didn’t even know you had. Weeding will improve flexibility; planting and using a trowel for an hour or so will help strength. Trekking up and down to the compost bin will increase your heart rate.

But if hard facts are your thing, how about this lot an excuse to eat biscuits: 

Every half an hour of activity you will burn the following: 

a rake and a pile of brown leaves on a lawnDigging and shovelling: 250 calories ( = 2 and a half Kit Kats)

Lawn mowing using a self propelled mower: two Kit Kats

Weeding: a whole two finger Kit Kat. 

Raking: most of a two finger Kit kat assuming a small piece falls out of the foil when you open it (be careful when unpacking the shopping in future) 

So just imagine, or calculate, what an hour's mowing, a thorough digging over of a veg plot and some warm-down weeding will do for your calorie count. Throw in some reaching up to water hanging baskets and …..you do the maths. 

The average UK garden is 14 square metres. 

a man using hand shears to cut a hedgePut away the lycra and don the neoprene wellies as gardening is a great workout and tone up. In that average sized garden, there will be plenty of gardening tasks to do which will work on different parts of your body. 

Gardening is cheaper than gym membership (when gyms reopen) and slightly less, well, sweaty? If your standard regulation sized 14 square metre plot has a hedge, get those biceps working and trim the hedge. Raking, mowing and forking will tone abdominal muscles and strengthen shoulders. And digging with a bit of squatting down to pick out weeds and stones will tone your your thighs and buttocks (or glutes if you want to impress your physiologically minded friends). You'll have a great workout and a gorgeous garden to show for it!

gardener sitting on a deck with a coffee and surrounded by planters

Regular contact with natural soil can boost immune systems

gloved hand weeding in the gardenWe need bugs in our lives. Or to be more precise - in and on our bodies. If you garden from an early age you build up a rather impressive and essential microbiome - a friendly mix of fungi, bacteria and yeasts. These all help our bodies recognise,or not, invaders in later life and can act appropriately. No one is suggesting you should eat a spoonful of soil every week, but getting dirty when gardening is a good thing.

Take common sense precautions though such as wearing gloves if you have any cuts on your hands and if you are unsure about what is in your soil (there are also plenty of nasty bugs ready to attack) .

a sky full of sunshineAnd of course, all this fantastic exercise is out on the fresh air, with oxygen being quite useful in our lives! That sunshine - even with cloud cover - is giving you your dose of Vitamin D. Make sure you wear a sunhat and appropriate suncream though.

The Benefits of Gardening on Mental Health

But it isn’t just the physical aspects of gardening that we all need. For our mental well being, spending time in our gardens is invaluable. 

Increasing your exposure to green space by 10% translates to being equivalent to being five years younger. 

calm lady relaxing in gardenCortisol levels decline when we reconnect with nature. That means stress, anxiety and post traumatic disorders all decline. It should come as no surprise to anyone that when marginalised groups such as young offenders are involved in horticultural therapy programmes, well being and self worth increase. Self esteem is vital to all of our lives. The achievement and pure joy attained when presenting the family with a bowl of home grown spuds for Sunday lunch is unbeatable.

Caring for plants gives us all a worthwhile aim for the day. That tomato plant needs you as much as you need it. The simple act of watering a container of plants is marvellous for your physical and mental well being. Help out a community project for double the self esteem. 

Above all, gardening gives you breathing space from the 100mph lifestyle many have. Rake a lawn to dissolve anger, pick flowers for the house to calm yourself and listen to the birds to alleviate stress and elevate your mood. 

And once you garden you will feel the benefits.

The Wider Benefits of Gardening

a bee and a butterfly on a white plantBut it isn’t only you as an individual that will feel good. The bigger picture...the whole of nature will reap the benefits. You garden, as organically as possible, and nature benefits. Bees, butterflies and the climate all improve. And that in turn helps you - so you garden more. You get the idea. 

OK, a spot of gardening will not fix all the faults in the world or even in your life, but it will help a little bit, or even a lot. 

Try a couple of these easy to do gardening tips and see for yourself: 

a bird on a bird bath

  • Grow one crop. Try potatoes. Get a full bag of compost and open the top. Plunge a seed potato half way down into the compost, cover with the compost and add water. Puncture holes in the base of the bag, plenty of them, and place the bag on a sunny patio. Wait. Water when dry. Shoots will appear followed a couple of months later by flowers. When blooming, slit the bag open and harvest the tastiest potatoes you'll ever experience. You'll be hooked on growing your own. Get onto the allotment waiting list fast! 
  • Allow a small part of your lawn to grow untended. Let some weeds thrive behind your shed. Bees and butterflies will love you for it. And that’s good for you and your garden. 
  • Grab yourself a bird feeder and bird bath. Look after the birds. Clean the tables and bath regularly to ensure your birds are in tip top condition.

wildflower meadow 
  • Take up some of that block paving on your front drive and plant the gaps with thyme. It grows low, smells great when you walk on it and flowers in summer. You will also be helping reduce run-off of rainwater, reduce flooding and doing a bit more for wildlife. 
  • Sow wildflower seeds in a container. You will create a nectar rich, wildlife mini-meadow haven in weeks. Or do it on a bigger scale if you have space. Choose local wildflower seeds from a local company to benefit your insects.  
  • Get a comfy chair and position it centrally in your garden. Leave your phone in the house (on silent or - even better - turned off) and pop the radio on mute. Sit down in that garden chair, relax, and look and listen. Really look and listen - that is your garden and you are a part of it. And breathe.

deckchair in garden with book and straw hat

We'd love to hear about how gardening benefits you. Leave us a message in the comments to share your love of gardening.

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