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The 12 Wonderful Benefits of Gardening

 Gardening is a pastime I neglected in my younger, more hectic days. But now I no longer work, change nappies or fritter away my hours in the city, I have grown to appreciate the amazing benefits of gardening. The most important realization I have had, is that gardening is simply good for me. Here I will share with you 12 benefits that we can all get from our gardens, to help us live fuller, richer, healthier and happier lives. 
1. Garden food is more nutritious and tastes better
It is well know that fresh produce is tastier and healthier than anything else. When perfectly ripe, fruit, veg and lettuces contain their maximum amount of minerals, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins, so if you harvest your produce at seasonal times you will enjoy these benefits.

Though in supermarkets you cannot rely on fresh produce unless you know just when and where it was harvested. Astonishingly, a woman in 1952 consumed her recommended vitamin A amount from two peaches, yet today she can only do so from 53 peaches. This alarming deterioration in produce quality can be completely remedied by starting up your own fruit and veg garden. 
2. No one eats more fruit and veg than gardeners
It is a commonsensical fact that those around food eat more of it. Also, when people are deeply involved in the production of something, they are much more likely to enjoy it for themselves. So too, gardeners take great pride in their hard work, and love to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Many also share their foster fruits and veggies with others.

Unfortunately many people do not eat enough fruit and veg to help stave off the worrying multiplicity of chronic diseases prevalent in today's world. Yet the facts show that gardeners do eat 40% more fresh fruit and veg than non-gardeners do. They are also nearly four times as likely to meet the recommended amounts of fruit and veg requirements. The same is also true for children who are involved with gardening.
3. You burn up to 600 calories an hour when gardening
Why waste money and energy in a fancy gym when you could gain the very same health benefits simply from doing a spot of work in your own garden. Of course gardening can be hard work, but you are the boss of your plot of land, so you can decide how much digging, weeding and watering you have to do any given day. You will probably take great pride in this work, communing both with nature, and with your remote ancestors who undoubtedly did the same tasks as you.

It is estimated that light gardening tasks will help you burn between 200 and 300 calories an hour, and this could double with harder jobs. That means you could, in three hours, replace one hour of painful gym activity much more sensibly and satisfyingly - in my humble gardener's opinion.
4. Those who garden keep their body weight healthy
One study has found that those who garden weigh on average 11 to 16 pounds less than their neighbors, siblings, and spouses. This is no doubt due to the particular activities that gardening entails, and also the fine health benefits of eating one's own work.
5. You'll get plenty of vitamin D when gardening
Vitamin D is particularly important, and it's worth making sure you get enough of it. Gardeners have no problem doing so, as they are outside come rain or shine. So, whether it's cloudy or not they always get their fill of vitamin D from the sun's rays. All you need is around quarter of an hour towards the middle of the day, just a few days a week and you are golden.
6. If you garden, you'll live longer
This one applies not only to gardening, but to all activities that require regular exertions. One study has shown that people over 60 who engage in activities like gardening have a 27% reduced risk of heart attack or strokes, and a 30% reduced risk of death from all causes. 
7. You'll get strong hands gardening
Scientists have come to believe that hand strength is a good gauge of a person's health and mortality risk. And it's hard to think of a better and more fulfilling activity that requires such hands on work as gardening. So, it seems that green fingers may not be a sign that you are the incredible hulk, but are certainly a good sign that you are a flourishingly healthy individual. 
8. Gardening gets you plenty of exposure to 'good bacteria'
Humans have long co-existed peacefully with bacteria, so much so that 90% of our body cells are non-human viruses, bacteria and other assorted microbes. For millennia people have been surrounded by such good bacteria, that help regulate our bodies. But these days we go out of our way to destroy bodily invaders. It's no wonder people are suffering from relatively new diseases like asthma, diabetes and cancer.
Yet being around soil will give you plenty of exposure, through the air and skin, to, for example, Mycobacterium vaccae, which can strengthen your immune system. It does so by affecting your immune cells, making you less likely to suffer inflammations. It can even help trigger your serotonin levels, naturally. This chemical is associated with good moods and also learning. 
9. Keep stress down by gardening
Gardening, according to one study, roundly defeats reading, in a battle to determine which pastime alleviates stress. Researchers have noted that people who have been doing something stressful calm down completely when they follow it with a spot of gardening, whereas those who read actually feel worse. 

While this is a bit of a mystery, it is not a big surprise. Think about it, where does your body yearn to take you for moments of quite reflection and peace? We desire to be around nature, and for most of us that means our gardens.
10. Gardeners are happier than non-gardeners
Being in a garden has been shown by one case study to boost self-esteem and mood. As we have seen above, it is so relaxing, and from this peace we find ourselves turning to joyful thoughts that really put us in a good mood. The result of this happiness means less tiredness and fatigue, enabling you to live a life of vigor and joy. 

This happiness becomes even more prolonged when engaging in gardening tasks that help take your minds off certain things, having you focus on the present. So wonderful are the clear spiritual effects of gardening that it's even being tried out as a therapeutic treatment for depression.
11. Exercise your brain: by gardening
Research has long shown that certain mental activities that help stave off brain degeneration can be exercised in various hobbies, like knitting, traveling, doing puzzles and gardening. Yet in my opinion gardening ranks above these other options since it offers so many other great benefits. So as well as boosting you diet, health and spirituality, gardening is an excellent activity for improving your learning skills, language skills, attention span and memory. Simply by doing it and thinking through what you are doing you are giving your mind a much needed boost.
12. Gardeners become gentler and more humane
Spending time around nature makes us feel giving, gentle and empathetic. Whereas, spending time in cities around man-made structures makes us feel more selfish and ambitious of fame and riches. This may seem too starkly black and white, but it is simply true that being in natural environments with wildlife makes us appreciate them more, and there is no equivalent for this feeling in man-made environments. Because cities are places of business we also tend to view the people we see there as means-to-ends. What service can they offer you, etc?

Instead, retreating to your garden, delighting in your flowers and food, rejoicing in your wild visitor, is a much more beneficial tonic to fortify and embolden your spirit to help tackle the problems caused by a lack of empathy in the world. Put simply, gardening is just better for you. And were we to become a world of gardeners again, the world would be exponentially improved too.
cover photograph: source
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