When it comes to the benefits of gardening, what comes to mind? Most of us might immediately turn our thoughts to the aesthetics of our outdoor space, local nature, bees and butterflies that live nearby, and so on. And it’s completely true that a well-loved garden and a natural yard work wonders for helping local animal species thrive (I actually wrote a book on this very topic) and for keeping the planet a little happier. But did you know just how many benefits that gardening hobby has for you, the gardener?
It’s true. Just a bit of time spent in the garden has a range of positive effects on your physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and can even be a boon to your social life. Here are a few of the ways:
Calorie burning and muscle-building. Depending on the type of gardening you’re doing, you might be moving pretty casually, or you might be getting quite physically active and getting lots of exercise. Sure, a quick trip out to the garden to water and collect veggies won’t burn lots of calories, but those days spent tilling and raking, or your time digging, planting, and weeding will definitely work up a sweat and build important muscles. (Just be careful of how you bend and kneel so you don’t strain your back.)
Lots of of vitamin D absorption. Whenever you spend quality time out in the sunshine, you’re soaking up those beneficial rays, so having a hobby that gets you outside most days is a great way to make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin D, which helps keep your bones, muscles, and even teeth in healthy shape. Just 10-30 minutes of midday sun is enough to keep your body replenished with that key vitamin.
Gardening provides an amazing sense of accomplishment. The process of planning your garden, putting in the hard work, and then reaping the benefits (whether that’s having beautiful plants, edible bounties, or sustaining wildlife in your yard) is immensely satisfying, and tends to provide a great rush of endorphins. When you pick those vegetables that you grew with your hands, or see bees making a home on your flowers, you’ll feel the high of accomplishing something with your hobby.
A host of mental health benefits. Time in nature, peaceful time outdoors, and gardening itself have all been shown to have a range of positive effects, from reducing stress and anxiety to increasing self-esteem or sense of calm.
You might eat healthier. If you’re growing edible plants like vegetables, fruits, and herbs, this is very likely to help you get more healthy foods in your diet more regularly. All of these foods offer amazing nutritional benefits, vitamins and minerals, and are low in calories, so as you grow and eat things like tomatoes, zucchini, peas, lettuce, herbs, berries, and so on, and use them in your meals, you’re not only eating the freshest of produce, but getting more of them in your diet because they’re so close at hand.
Building community. If you use a community garden, this automatically provides a great space to meet people from your neighborhood and make connections. But even in your own garden, it’s typical to find by the end of the season that you’re being overrun by so much produce that you have to share it. Perhaps you use some of your zucchini to make zucchini bread for neighbors or friends, or you pick bouquets of your flowers to give to someone. You’re using your garden to deepen connections and spread the wealth.