A green thumb leads to a healthy body

by Michelle Fiscus. 0 Comments

Gardening is a popular spring time activity. You often see people on the weekend mulching their yard and planting flowers. Traditionally, we associate this activity with older adults; but, research shows it is beneficial to all walks of life, especially when the whole neighborhood works together. In fact, people who regularly take part in this hobby tend to be healthier than their non-gardening neighbors.

The American Journal of Public Health published a study last week that suggests community gardening can have a significant impact on your health. Researchers measured how the activity improves one’s body mass index (BMI). The body mass index is a ratio of your height and weight. It helps screen for obesity related health issues. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9.

Men and women who gardened had a much lower BMI than their neighbors who did not participate in the activity: a difference of 11-16 pounds. In addition, women gardeners were 46% less likely to be overweight and 62% less for the men. This particular study used a community garden: where people in the neighborhood work together to grow fruits and vegetables on a common piece of land. The lead researcher in the study wants to further investigate the relationship between gardening and families’ eating habits and physical activity.

However, it’s not the first time a community garden has shown healthy benefits. In 2011, another study looked at the idea and found community gardens promote health and well-being through economic, social, and physical changes.

The positive interaction and sense of responsibility for one’s community provides a powerful mental health benefit. It gets people out of their homes, talking to neighbors and instills a sense of pride in their community.

Growing your own food tends to be an economic way to eat your fruits and vegetables. Produce may be expensive in the supermarket, but it’s free when you pick it from your backyard. With the availability of fresh items, gardeners have an easier time meeting the national guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake compared to those who do not participate in the activity.

You don’t need a community garden to get started. You can get the benefits even from a small piece of land. Research what flowers, fruits, and vegetables do well in this climate, as well as what to grow during different months of the year. Invite your family members to participate in picking out what to plant and keeping up with the garden as the season progresses.

To increase your activity even more depend less on all those machines that are supposed to make your life easier: cut your lawn with a push power, prune your trees, bag your own leaves and grass clippings, mulch your gardens, and dig up weeds. You can get a pretty good workout from yard work.

If you need some ideas to get started or have additional questions, email the author at michelle@fiscusfitness.com.

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Michelle Fiscus writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com. Michelle and her husband own a personal training and nutrition business based in Frederick County and hold industry certifications and credentials.

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