Digging deep: the benefits of gardening

A man and daughter planting a seedling

Nicola DeschampsWhether you’re pulling, pushing, bending or stretching, gardening is great exercise. Nicola Deschamps, a Registered Associate Nutritionist, explores all the benefits to your body.

Whether looking after a small herb garden or a vegetable patch, gardening can be fulfilling and rewarding for people of all ages and abilities and has a positive impact on both our physical and mental well-being.

One study showed that 40% of the UK population actively garden, with participants benefiting from many different physical and mental health benefits. Spending time in green spaces can help you relax, reduce stress, and give you a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride.

Gardening can be a great exercise that benefits the whole body. Pulling, pushing, bending, carrying and stretching engages all the major muscle groups, helping to improve flexibility, strength and stamina. Besides strengthening your muscles, gardening can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Plus, activities involved in gardening, such as digging, mowing, trimming, weeding and raking, use up calories too, which can help you achieve a healthy weight.

We know that being a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing at least 13 types of cancer. Because of these benefits, health professionals now recommend gardening as a regular activity.

Start light

It’s sensible to start with light jobs, such as planting and weeding plants in the garden, to allow your muscles to warm up and avoid injury. Remember to use good lifting techniques when handling heavy garden equipment or bags of compost or soil.

As well as being a great physical activity, gardening can produce affordable, homegrown, nutritious food and we know that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables has many benefits to our health including lowering our risk of cancer.

They are filled with vitamins, minerals and other plant chemicals that support your health, and also fibre, which is great for your gut health and reducing bowel cancer risk.

Soil quality and pest control are important for producing high-quality food too. By growing your own, you have complete control over the process, including choosing your seeds, soil and sprays, as well as deciding when and how to harvest your crops. You can also use sustainable and responsible gardening practices that are environmentally friendly and ensure that the food grown is free of harmful substances that could harm your health.

For example, living soil, which contains beneficial bacteria and organic matter, effectively regenerates soil and provides plants with important nutrients. This method also reduces the need for pesticides and fungicides. Living soil creates a rich ecosystem that nourishes plants and supports a cleaner environment. Crops grown in nutrient-rich soil contain an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals.

Natural pesticides

Did you know that you can make your own natural pesticides and herbicides at home using ingredients like garlic, vinegar, vegetable oils and essential oils? These homemade solutions are safe for you, your family and the environment. Plus, they are budget-friendly and easy to make with items you are likely to have in the kitchen.

Supplementing homegrown foods with wild foods foraged from local fields, woods, and hedgerows is another option – and it’s a great way to get outside and get active! Just make sure your foraging is safe, sustainable and follows common land rules.

Gardening not only provides a full-body workout but also the opportunity to grow your own food and enjoy being out in nature!