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Gardening: A Healthy Activity

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Posted Mar. 31, 2001

While surfing the Web recently in an effort to keep up to date on new gardening sites, I came across one that made the following offer: "Swap your Thighmaster for something useful - a free book on fitness and gardening." Being the curious character that I am, I couldn't resist exploring the site in greater detail. The author's argument is that you can lose weight and get into shape while gardening. As a bonus, you get to eat all the fresh fruits and vegetables you can grow and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Because I spend a significant amount of my time helping my market-gardening clients achieve their financial goals, I am often guilty of considering only the commercial side of horticulture. In reality, most of the residents within the Noble Research Institute's service area garden with another goal in mind: quality of life. Although this goal isn't as glamorous as profit-oriented gardening, it is just as legitimate. It can mean different things to different people. Most gardeners think of quality of life in terms of a healthy lifestyle.

The older I get, the more aware I become of the importance of physical activity in maintaining my health. Numerous studies show that regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, and certain types of cancer. Gardening contributes to physical health, since activities such as digging, planting, weeding, and harvesting are all part of three types of physical activity: endurance, flexibility, and strength.

Gardening is a labor of love. Exercise is just plain labor. Human nature suggests that you're going to do something you love much more frequently than something you don't love. Given the choice between a treadmill and gardening, I'll take the garden anytime.

The benefits of gardening are not all in the body; they're also in the mind. Tending your garden is a real stress buster, helping relieve feelings of anxiety and giving you a break from the general rush of life. Because the work you do is mainly physical, you have a chance to think about anything that concerns you, meditate, or just spend a few hours daydreaming. You'll also feel a sense of accomplishment in a job well done.

While I'm gardening, I'm thinking not so much about the health benefits as I am about consuming some great-tasting food. The thought of feasting on fresh roasted sweet corn, a vine ripe tomato, or a cold slice of melon is what really motivates me. Is this quality of life or what!

Want even more good news? Consider what most of us already know but fail to appreciate: eating garden produce is good for you. Scientists have built a strong body of evidence that shows that fruits and vegetables promote general good health and may protect against heart disease and several types of cancer. Besides being low in calories and fat, fruits and vegetables contain many essential vitamins and minerals. They also contain substances referred to as phytochemicals, which are usually related to plant pigments. Yellow, orange, red, green, and purple colored fruits and vegetables generally contain the most phytochemicals. More than 900 different phytochemicals have been found in plant foods, and more will likely be discovered. Phytochemicals work in concert with other nutrients to protect against disease. Supplements and pills contain large doses of only one or two phytochemicals and have not proven effective.

Growing produce for market is an excellent way to generate additional income. However, don't underestimate the myriad other benefits gardening can provide.

Ever wonder why God placed Adam and Eve in a garden? Gardening is good for you!