How Gardening Could Drastically Help Your Heart Health!
Do you have a green thumb? Does the thought of spending the day outdoors basking the warmth of the sun fill you with joy? Well, now is the time to lather on the sunscreen and head outdoors, because June 6th is ‘National Gardening Exercise Day!’
Statistics Canada found that 59% of households in Canada reported growing some types of plants in their garden. That means that thousands of Canadians are getting outdoors, weeding, fertilizing, seeding, and watering an abundance of plants. But why should you bother spending your time in the garden when there is a patio calling your name? Not only is this hobby one that results in delicious fresh foods, but it is also found that gardening could be just the thing to help boost your heart health! Wondering how the green thumb is connected to the blood-pumper and what benefits it truly offers? Here’s all you need to know!
How Gardening Helps You!
Health Benefits Galore
You head outdoors and take a slow deep breath in, and then slowly exhale the fresh air from your lungs. Is there anything more relaxing than spending time in nature? Hundreds of studies and research have been conducted over the years and all of them showed that being outside, surrounded by plants, trees, and nature:
- reduces stress levels
- improves mental health
- lowers blood pressure
- boosts immune system
- improves sleep
- reduces health risks
- improves memory
- boosts mood
- reduces likelihood of pain
- and immeasurably more!
Studies found that patients with known diseases overcame symptoms, surgery patients felt a reduction in pain, and those with mental health overcame serious symptoms of anxiety or depression by simply walking in the woods (also known as Forest Bathing). It is no wonder that people of all ages retreat to the park, mountains, forest, or even the backyard – it improves our wellness in more ways than we can count!
Breaking a Sweat
If you think about the movements and motions you go through in a typical gardening session, you will probably recall plenty of walking, moving up and down from the garden bed, a sheen of sweat on your brow, and even your heart rate rising. Gardening is a great workout! It was discovered that a single hour of gardening can burn up to 300 calories! Squats, raking, pushing a mower, lifting bags of dirt, tilling soil, and other gardening movements will help you break a sweat, and strengthen your muscles – heart muscles included. The stronger your heart muscles are, the better it is able to pump blood through your body, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease!
Did you know that when you have good mental health, it also has an impact on your overall heart wellness? If our bodies experience more stress, our blood pressure raises and puts extra strain on our hearts. The more strain your heart experiences from stress throughout the day, the harder it has to work. But when we take the time to care for our mental health, slow down, and unwind, we will have less stress hormones (ex. cortisol) in our bodies. According to PsychologyToday, it has been found that gardening in particular works to decrease anxiety, reduces depression, develops growth mindsets, manages stress better, and helps the mind stay present. All that from taking care of your plant babies!
Creating a better state of calm improves our blood pressure levels and gives our hearts the rest and healthy heart rate it needs to do its job for the long-term.
(Want to know more about heart health and depression and anxiety? Check out our mental health blog!)
Promoting Healthy Eating
Not only is the action and the exercise of gardening enough to put you into a healthy sweat and improve your mind, the outcomes of your hard work are fruitful bonuses that help your heart. Gardening your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs ensures that you will have access to NATURAL and often ORGANIC produce. Meaning that the dishes you serve for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are more likely to be filled with fresh ingredients! The extra helping of veggies you add to your plate, the more your heart will celebrate (and a little dirt doesn’t hurt)!
Fruits and Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden That Are Good for Your Health
Ready to take advantage of the benefits that this relaxing and productive hobby can create? Get the most out of your garden by planting the best ingredients that will raise the nutrition of your meals. Some of the ingredients commonly grown in local gardens that work to reduce or prevent heart disease as well as provide your body with the nutrients and vitamins needed for a strong heart include:
- Broccoli – source of fatty acids and vitamin C
- Squash – source of vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium
- Red Peppers – source of lycopene antioxidants to help reduce bad cholesterol
- Spinach – source of omega-3-fatty-acids, antioxidants, and vitamin B
- Kale – rich in potassium and acts as an anti-inflammatory
- Strawberries – source of polyphenols
- Carrots – source of fiber and potassium
- Tomatoes – source of lycopene antioxidants to help reduce bad cholesterol
- Mint – anti-inflammatory and immunity booster
- Rhubarb – source of vitamin K
Although gardening is often referred to as a relaxing activity, there are certain precautions you should take to protect yourself. These include:
- Drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration or sunstroke
- Wear sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses to protect from the sun
- Wearing protective gardening gloves to protect from sharp objects or chemicals
- Use proper heavy lifting practices and avoid over strenuous and repetitive exercises that could hurt your back, wrists, neck, or shoulders
- Know your limits – take breaks!
Ready to grow some garden magic? Start digging, planting, seeding, and watering now and your heart will thank you for it in the long run!