This time of year, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere emerge from our cocoons to a world resembling an Impressionist painting, as the dull greys and browns of winter become stippled with dots of chartreuse, red, pink, white, and green. And once the buds begin to pop in earnest, the pastel hues quickly become a rich color palette consuming Mother Nature’s canvas — and we humans head to our closets, sheds, and garages to pull out the necessary tools for working with her unique artistic medium.
This spring, whether your creative goal is a native garden for pollinators, pots of herbs on your balcony or patio, a patch of fresh vegetables, or a perfectly manicured lawn, consider pausing to offer a moment of gratitude for this one activity that brings so many health benefits.
Gardening and yard work can be a full-body workout. The continuous lifting, pulling, bending, stretching, and balancing required to keep nature in check offer all-in-one benefits of strength training, cardio, and flexibility workouts. A plus is that gardening and yard work exercises can be modified to accommodate the needs of young and old alike. For tips on how to make your landscaping chores more beneficial and less painful, check out GardenFit on your local PBS network.
Working outside in the sunshine brings a much-needed dose of Vitamin D to the system. Not only does Vitamin D contribute to bone and muscle health, it has also been shown to reduce cancer cell growth, stimulate the immune system, and reduce inflammation. But beware of too much of a good thing: Limit the time spent in direct sunlight without sunscreen and a hat.
The physical exercise and sunshine that gardening and yard work afford also provide positive mental health benefits. These activities have been shown to promote mindfulness — the state of forgetting past and future worries and concentrating fully on the present — and even “flow state,” which psychologists describe as a mental state in which an individual is completely absorbed by the task at hand, so much so that they lose track of time and think of little else but their activity. One study found that working in the yard or garden just two to three days a week results in better well-being and lower stress levels overall.
You don’t need the talent of Monet or Renoir to be a master of your own natural world. Just a little dirt, a trowel, some seeds or seedlings, and a pot or a small patch of land can lead to months of improved health and happiness. If you need a good stretch before or after your outdoor fun, check out SimplaFYI’s vetted practitioners. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates.
Carol Swanson is a blog writer specializing in health & wellbeing and finance. She can be reached at: [email protected]. Carol also provided this beautiful image from her outdoor canvas.