A lovely garden impacts positively on property values and relationships with your neighbours as well as the quality of your leisure time. A garden is a joy to behold. But did you know a garden is also a joy to create?
We all know that exercise, fresh air and a moderate amount of sunshine are good for you, and gardening provides all that. But there is more to gardening than that.
The type of exercise you get gardening is the sort of thing that gyms are trying to emulate in their functional zones because all the research has shown that bending, lifting, picking up, putting down, pushing, pulling, sitting and standing are essential for keeping all your joints moving and to build well-balanced musculature.
Plants create oxygen. Okay, not exactly, but they do absorb CO2 and give off oxygen, which amounts to the same thing. And in the process, they clear the air of pollutants, so the more plants you have around you, the cleaner the air you breathe will be. Gardening can be considered similar to, but less intense than, forest bathing. And forest bathing has been shown to have real health benefits like improved immunity, decreased stress, lower blood pressure – all those good things.
We are so aware of the dangers of excess sunshine that we have forgotten how important just enough sunshine really is. Think of food – we know too much is bad for us, but does that mean we have to stop eating altogether? So, yes, you need sunshine – on your skin, not your clothes. But, yes, preferably not at noon in December. Surprisingly, a large percentage of South Africans are vitamin D-deficient, which seems crazy considering our sunny climate, but makes sense when you realise that most of us hide away from the sun. So, get out into the garden.
But that’s not all
Really, gardening is good for you in so many ways. Researchers have found that soil contains stress-busting micro-organisms. Professor Christopher Lowry, of Colorado University Boulder, says that ‘as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation. That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders.’
Perhaps it’s just another way of saying the same thing, but there is a growing body of evidence that ‘grounding’ is important for health. This is particularly important for people who live in apartments, and perhaps never walk barefoot. It’s astonishing how many people in today’s society never, ever touch the earth with any part of their bodies uncovered. Clinton Ober – author of the perhaps hyperbolically titled Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever! – explains that not being in contact with the earth leads to a build-up of positive electrons in the body from various elements of our modern lifestyle – microwaves, radio signals, electrical discharge, cell phones and Wi-Fi – and he postulates that grounding ‘earths’ us, reducing the extra positive charge, in the same way as one has to earth electrical equipment.
And – while even just growing flowers is good for you – gardeners who grow their own vegetables have the added health benefit of a ready supply of fresh, healthy, unsprayed veggies.
And, of course, the rush of endorphins when you walk outside in the morning to see that your rose bush/tomato plant/whatever has just budded or produced a fruit or a new shoot is a constant injection of feel-good hormones. Better than Prozac.