How Gardening Can Lead to a Healthier, Happier You

If April showers bring May flowers, we’re about to see a whole lot of bloomin’ going on around here! After the drab winter months, those spring blooms can really awaken our senses with their beauty and fragrance. But it turns out, gardens—and more specifically, gardening—can have health benefits, too!

Gardening may seem like a pretty low-key activity, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers it a moderate-activity exercise which can burn 200-400 calories per hour.

The CDC recommends 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week to help prevent a variety of ailments like heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and type-2 diabetes. That means gardening is good for your health! Gardening can also keep you limber because of the stretching and reaching you have to do, and using the gardening tools can help maintain dexterity, keep your hands and fingers nimble and improve your hand-eye coordination.

Working outdoors can also have some additional benefits. For instance, fresh air could boost your immune system and increase energy levels. And while you always need to protect your skin, spending just 15 minutes in the sun can boost your vitamin D intake, which studies have shown can help reduce hypertension, high blood pressure, and even precancerous colon polyps.

Gardening (or any type of physical exercise) can also be good for your mental health. We know exercising releases serotonin and dopamine (hormones that make us feel good) and decreases the level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress). It can help us relax, give us a sense of responsibility, and keep us connected to other living things. It can also improve our self-esteem as we watch our hard work take root and grow into something beautiful or good to eat.

Volunteering with others to tend a community garden can help us develop relationships, realize the importance of teamwork, and give us a sense of purpose to beautify an area for others to enjoy, or grow vegetables and fruits for folks who can’t afford them. The Toledo Botanical Garden, Schedel Gardens and Metroparks of Toledo all welcome volunteers to help maintain their gardens. Community gardens are also popping up all over our area. Call your area park service or extension office to inquire about volunteer opportunities where you live.

If you enjoy those beautiful blooms, why not consider creating a garden of your own, or volunteering at a community garden? In addition to flowers, herbs and vegetables, you might end up cultivating some habits that contribute to improving your health and well-being!

Flowers can be a bright pick-me-up for anyone but especially someone who’s going through treatment for cancer. Do you know a cancer survivor who could use a little cheer? Click here to enter their name in our Friends for Life Flowers for Friends contest!

IMG_9319For 20 years, Chrys Peterson was the face of WTOL news, anchoring the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts. She is now a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.