The Garden Patch: Gardening to good health, Part 3

052514-garden-excericiseWell, here we go on the last of three articles about gardening for your good health! Hope you’ve enjoyed the information and found something that was useful to you … that’s the reason we write! Thank you for reading and here we go …

Walking

One gardening activity I can’t forget to mention is walking. If you started out today by walking off the distance between your worksite (garden) and your tool storage area (let’s say it is 75 paces; 225 feet, you’ll get the idea! Now you can probably go back and forth between the work spot and the tools at least 10 times in a half day. That’s 4,500 feet, or 85 percent of a mile. Now, here’s your choice: You can either walk from point A to point B each time in a brisk manner, practicing proper posture and breathing techniques; or, you can walk back and forth, losing more stamina and starting to hunch over as the day (and number of trips) wanes on. To obtain maximum benefit, the former approach is your obvious choice.

Adapt your tools so that they enable you to keep your back as straight as possible – long handles are ALWAYS the best way. Extension handles on pruning shears can help you avoid twisting and straining.

If you have wrist problems from the repetitive motions involved with gardening, use a wrist guard. These will keep your wrists steady while you dig. A good warm-up exercise is to make a loose fist, then make circles with your wrist in both directions before and after your gardening session. Alternating garden tasks will also help keep your wrists from being overworked.

Concentrate on deep breathing while you work – and increase your range of motion, exaggerating the raking motion or the digging motion. Alternate using the right and left sides of your body to stay balanced. Pruning with your non-dominant hand will also stimulate your brain.

Gardening develops mental health …

And may help relieve depression, dementia and provide stress relief.

“Humans have a finite capacity for the kind of directed attention required by cell phones and email and the like,” says Dr. Andrea Taylor, “and when that capacity gets used up we tend to become irritable, error-prone, distractible and stressed out.”

Fortunately, this “attention fatigue” appears to be reversible. Following a theory first suggested by University of Michigan researchers in the 1980s, Taylor and other experts have argued that we can replenish ourselves by engaging in “involuntary attention”, an effortless form of attention that we use to enjoy nature.

Trading your iPhone or computer for blackberry bushes is an excellent way to fight stress and attention fatigue as the rhythms of the natural environment and the repetitive, soothing nature of many gardening tasks are all sources of effortless attention.

Nutrition: Growing brain food

Gardeners are more likely to eat their veggies than non-gardeners. It makes sense: Once they’ve invested the time and energy to grow a carrot or squash, they’re more likely to eat it.

Vegetables and fruits are packed with antioxidants, which are thought to help protect the brain from the ravages of aging. As a general rule, dark-colored vegetables – such as spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper and eggplant – tend to have the highest antioxidant levels. Strawberries and blueberries also rank very high in antioxidants, and don’t they taste wonderful? Yeah! “Kin ah have another helping?”

The food you grow yourself is the freshest food you can eat. And because home gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables, it’s also among the healthiest food you can eat!

Conclusion

Gardening not only helps develop endurance, flexibility and strength, it promotes weight loss and improves mental health, stress relief and provides brain food. Gardening is definitely one of the more pleasurable ways to stay busy and promotes good health!

Good gardening, everyone! Thanks for reading! Till next week!


stevehallerSteve Haller, of Osage City, a K-State Research and Extension Master Gardener, writes The Garden Patch, featuring gardening ideas and tips for gardeners in northeast Kansas. In his words: “I am not a horticulturist. By education I am an economist. By experience, I am a marketing guru from a local to an international scale. Gardening was taught to me by my grandfather and my Mom, and I’ve been doing it since World War II was going on.”

Steve can be contacted at [email protected], or leave questions or comments below.

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