What does your garden grow? You may have a few humble window boxes or an ambitious veggie plot, but did you realize that when you’re playing in the dirt, you’re protecting your physical and mental health? Gardening is one of the best ways to tune your body to the seasonal fluctuations in your environment. Plus, it can reduce incidence of heart disease, osteoporosis, stress, and weight gain. No wonder this is one of the most common hobbies amongst centenarians around the world! And the best news? Studies show that you don’t need to dig up your entire yard to reap these benefits, a few houseplants or urban window boxes will do the trick! Read on to unearth the secret benefits of gardening.
There are many ways to look at gardening: as a vehicle for healthy food, as a physical activity, as a satisfying check off your to-do list, or, for many, as an anti-stress tool. While most of us can attest to feeling better when we’re surrounded by flowers, vegetables, and green plants all around, that’s just the tip of the pea pod! Gardening is a discipline, and as such, it requires patience, cultivates fortitude, and in the end, brings both tangible rewards and bountiful joy to its practitioners. Studies on individuals suffering from anxiety or dementia also contend that gardening helps calm agitation and improve quality of sleep while normalizing sleep patterns. Not sure? Researchers from Texas A&M University recently found through interviews that self-identified gardeners had significantly higher levels of optimism, resolution, and “zest for life” than other participants.
Protecting your bone health and warding off osteoporosis takes more effort than you may think, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at the same time. Physical activity that involves weight training and varied movements is one of the best ways to increase your joint mobility, strength, and balance—no matter what your age! In a study of 3,310 women by the University of Arkansas, those who indicated that they gardened or did other yard work had lower rates of osteoporosis than those who jogged, swam, or did aerobics.
No matter what your age or health condition, you always have the opportunity to extend your longevity and prevent future degeneration. Many physical activities that form our daily routines—including the squatting, lifting, pulling, and digging involved in gardening—count as exercise and can help strengthen your immune system, all while reducing your susceptibility to a number of conditions, the most pervasive of which is diabetes. If you’re an active gardener, then you’re likely getting more than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week to stay healthy and fit. If you garden less frequently, you should still consider that time as beneficial to your health! The daily activities that gardening offers help reduce sugar in the bloodstream by causing the muscles to use up the excess blood sugars that are the trademark of diabetes.
Food for thought: Not only does the physical activity help reduce your risk of diabetes, but that fresh food you’re producing will certainly help. Communities with access to fresh, local food (and what’s more local than your own backyard or community garden?) have lower diabetes rates than those without.
Starting a garden can seem daunting—there’s weeding, seeding, and sweat. Plus, if you’re living in an urban environment and don’t have a backyard, there’s the question of space and innovation. I suggest that you team up with your local garden club or community garden to get tips, learn techniques, or get your own little plot of land in the middle of the city. Community gardens and clubs are more prevalent now than ever, so take advantage! If you’re looking to start growing your own herb garden for cooking or healing (or both!) here are a few of my easy-to-grow and good-for-you favorites. For more information on the benefits of each of these herbs, download a copy of my Natural Health Dictionary.
1. Basil is a sun-loving plant that has been cultivated for 5,000 years in Asia. Medicinally, basil is used for respiratory conditions, to aid with digestion, and reduce anxiety. If you’re putting it in your home garden, try companion planting basil with tomato—they thrive better when together!
2. Calendula, or marigold, is both pretty and potent. Used for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties since the 12th century, this flower is good for fevers and inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and healing minor skin infections. Plant calendula in well-drained soil outside or in indoor planters. Once established, this easy-to-grow flower only needs water a few times a week.
3. Tomatoes are one of the easiest fruits to propagate in your home or garden, so long as they have plenty of sun! Use tomatoes to help with detoxification, good digestion, and cholesterol prevention. Try tiny cherry tomatoes or go big with heirlooms.
4. Dill can be grown in a container garden or even as a potted house plant. It grows tall, so make sure it isn’t going to block out sun from your other plants, and put it in a place where it won’t become damaged by strong winds. Dill can be eaten fresh or steeped as a tea. It is used to treat indigestion, flatulence, yeast infections, and low energy.
Much of the information in this article come from The Natural Health Dictionary, a comprehensive guide that answers all your questions about natural remedies, healing herbs, longevity foods, vitamins, and supplements. Also, you can find more ways to live a long and healthy life in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle.
Follow me on Twitter to get insider tips and to ask your health questions.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy all year long!
This blog is meant to educate, but it should not be used as a substitute for personal medical advice. The reader should consult his or her physician or clinician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field is ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
- - - - - - - - - -
Discover the high-quality Aquasana water filtration system that will provide you with pure, healthy water.
Transform your health and bring
quality to your years with Dr. Mao's natural health products from the Tao of Wellness.
Heal yourself with your own hands with Dr. Mao's new book Secrets of Longevity Acupressure Healing.
Learn hundreds of ways for living a long and happy life with Dr. Mao's book Secrets of Longevity.
Find out amazing ways you can naturally increase your energy and heal common ailments in Secrets of Self-Healing, Dr. Mao's landmark book on natural healing.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
To purchase Dr. Mao's book, "Secrets of Longevity" on Kindle, click here.
To purchase Dr. Mao's new book, "Secrets of Longevity Acupressure Healing" on Kindle, click here.
To purchase Dr. Mao's book, "The Natural Health Dictionary," click here.
To learn more about Dr. Mao and other natural health tips, go to askdrmao.com.