10 Surprising Ways Gardening Is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do

Sure, you knew gardening was fun, and who doesn't love fresh flowers? But did you know it can also boost self-esteem, keep colds at bay, and even give you a killer handshake?

Makes you love veggies you thought you hated


Were you the kid who fed your peas to the dog under the table? Faked a stomach illness every time Brussels sprouts were served? Ordered a salad with extra ranch, hold the lettuce? Simply growing older may not have changed your feelings about eating your greens but growing your own vegetables just might. People who learn how to garden are not only far more likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but they also enjoy eating them more, according to a study done by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The effect is strongest on people who were taught gardening skills as children, but even if that ship has sailed, it's never too late to learn. Here are the healthy vegetables you're about to realize are downright delicious.

Helps you lose weight


Weight loss is the holy grail of health for many people, and gardening can help you achieve that goal, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Gardeners have a significantly lower body mass index, as well as lower odds of being overweight or obese, than non-gardeners, they found. The average weight loss? About 11 pounds for women and 16 pounds for men. Here's how you can lose weight in our sleep.

Provides a great workout that feels more fun than work


Think puttering around in the garden is just something your elderly neighbor does when she gets bored with watching TV? Well it's time to stop underestimating granny! Carrying bags of mulch, pushing a wheelbarrow, hoeing rows, picking weeds, planting seeds, toting equipment, shoveling manure, moving pots, pushing a mower, and building containers provides a whole-body workout for your heart and your muscles, according to a study done by the American Society for Horticultural Science. Even better, it's exercise with a purpose. Gardening rewards you with fruits and flowers to enjoy—when's the last time your treadmill gave you anything besides a guilt trip?

Nourishes your spirit


Call it the "gardening glow"—working with plants provides serious stress relief and positive sensory stimulation, according to researchers from NASA. That's right, the scientists responsible for hurtling humans into space have discovered that gardening can keep astronauts sane and happy in the severe environment of outer space. They found that planting and nurturing seeds, even just in small pots, provided great mental health benefits. And if it helps an astronaut, it can definitely help those of us who just watch them on TV. Check out these other natural stress-soothers.

Content continues below ad

Cuts your risk of heart disease


Even though gardening may not be a high-intensity cardio sweat fest, it's still providing powerful heart health benefits. In fact, gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by 30 percent, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The benefits appear to come from the combination of physical exercise and the stress reduction playing in the dirt provides. Here are more lifestyle habits that cut your risk of heart disease.

Helps slow climate change


When it comes to reversing or stopping global climate change, there's a lot you can do on an individual level. Recycling, carpooling, using energy efficient appliances, and hybrid cars all help. But did you know that you can add your backyard garden to that list? Gardens provide vital green space to offset all that asphalt, reduce greenhouse gasses, lessen your need to buy things, allow you to recycle kitchen waste, and many other positives for our planet, says a recent report issued by the National Wildlife Federation.

Boosts your immune system


Having dirt under your fingernails used to be a sign of poor hygiene, but these days scientists are saying it's actually a mark of good health. Thanks to beneficial bacteria found in soil, gardening can improve your immune system, helping you get sick less and fight off infections easier, according to research published in Science. Working in the garden can also help prevent certain allergies and decrease the severity of a reaction, according to a separate study done by the University of Copenhagen. These other healthy habits will keep your immune system revved.

Increases hand coordination and strength


A powerful grip is important for more than just rock climbing or intimidating underlings at work. Hand strength, flexibility, and coordination are essential for everyday tasks like opening jars, carrying packages, and picking up children. And gardening is the perfect way to hone those finemotor skills and muscles, according to a study published in HortScience. A few minutes of daily weeding may even help offset some of the strain caused by repetitive use like typing or phone swiping.

Content continues below ad

Gives you better self-esteem


Researchers at Kansas State studying the health effects of gardening were surprised to note that as the gardeners' skills increased their self-esteem skyrocketed along with their health. These science-backed tips can also boost your confidence.

Sharpens your brain


Gardening isn't just good exercise for your body, it also provides a healthy workout for your brain, says research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Scientists found that regularly working in the garden is a powerful tool for protecting cognitive health, increasing the study participants' brain volume and cutting the risk of Alzheimer's disease by 50 percent.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.