Healthy Living

Rebecca Shares the Health Benefits That Come with a Green Thumb

Apr 3 2023

Spring has arrived, and if you’re looking for a new hobby that will help you get outside to enjoy the fresh air, you may want to consider gardening. Whether you choose to plant flowers or vegetables, it’s a hobby that has major benefits for your health.

“Gardening is great because it counts as exercise,” Rebecca McKinney, community health manager at Bon Secours St. Francis and master gardener, shares. “It especially helps increase your flexibility because you’re bending over and reaching as you’re planting things.”

You may not realize, but just 30 minutes of weeding in your garden can burn up to 110 calories! Getting outdoors has its own set of benefits, starting with an extra dose of vitamin D – which can improve bone health and boost your immune system. It’s also been linked to positive effects on type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

However, the physical benefits are just the beginning, with gardening being a great boost for mental well-being, too.

“You’re putting your hands in the soil, and just that contact with the soil has been shown to reduce depression,” Rebecca shares.

She is referring to specific soil bacteria that can trigger the release of serotonin, a natural anti-depressant that makes you feel relaxed and happier.

“There are even studies that show gardening can lower your risk of dementia,” she adds.

Gardening can also combat the negative health impacts of loneliness by helping you connect with your community – whether it be getting family members involved, working with others through a community garden project or just talking to your neighbors or friends about what you’re growing.

“Everything we do revolves around food – whether it’s a family reunion, a birthday or an organizational event,” Rebecca says. “So, from that standpoint, this is something we all have in common.”

Growing your own food comes with an entire set of its own perks – from added nutrition to even a boost in taste.

“If you’re growing a garden in your backyard, you’re going to be getting more nutrients out of your vegetables than you would out of the ones you buy at the grocery store,” Rebecca explains. “The shorter the time between harvest and consumption, the more nutrients your vegetables retain. So, for example, if I walk out to my garden and pick a head of lettuce that I make a salad with immediately, my lettuce is going to be much more nutritious than something that was picked in California and shipped across the country, where it may sit in a warehouse and then grocery store for weeks. And the flavor is so much better!”

If growing an entire vegetable garden seems a little daunting, then start small. Earth boxes are a container gardening system that allow you to grow vegetables, fruit or herbs without needing a traditional, in-ground garden. Herbs can also be a great way to start small, as many are easier to grow and maintain if you’re still getting the hang of your green thumb.

Learn about the different health care services we offer at Bon Secours.

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