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Unexpected Side Benefits of Gardening

Wait…

Shouldn’t an article on the benefits of gardening come on “Wellness Wednesday?”

Wouldn’t you expect to read about the amazing abundance of nutrients in home-grown vegetables on Wednesday?

Well, sure…if you want to read about something obvious.

But you already know that garden-fresh vegetables and fruits are God’s gift to your body. You could tell me stories about the benefits of adding kale, spinach, lettuce, and other dark leafy greens to your diet – how you put them in your smoothies and started feeling more energy, less joint pain, fewer headaches and all that.

You already know all that.

But there’s a whole other menu of benefits to gardening that we haven’t even talked about. In fact, I dare say almost no one is talking about them.

But there is still one other huge benefit to gardening that I don’t see too many people talking about, and it’s a perfect fit for “Move Right Monday:”

The act of gardening is one of the best exercises you can do.

Gardening As Exercise?

Now, I know what most people will think immediately: kneeling in the dirt is not exactly running the IronMan. And they’re right. Gardening is not known for being a cardiovascular workout. But, if you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that I prefer a balanced, comprehensive exercise program that includes all kinds of movements, to work many different muscle groups in harmony.

For six thousand years, our ancestors did not use machines to isolate muscle groups with the intention of bulking up. They worked the land, built structures, conquered territory, and carried heavy loads on their shoulders. They lived life and worked hard, and their muscle tone reflected a lifestyle of outdoor work. When work shifted from the farm to the cubicle, we lost our connection to our healthy selves, and felt like we needed to compensate. Rather than work the way our ancestors did, we went to the gym and performed relatively unnatural movements. It doesn’t have to be that way.

From pushing a wheelbarrow to kneeling to weeding, to hoeing, shoveling, and planting, every task in the garden moves specific groups of muscles in coordination with each other. One good part of it is that gardening does not usually include endless repetitions of one movement. That kind of activity could cause repetitive stress injuries, which results in unhealthy development in your muscles and tendons. The movements are usually simple and balanced – lift, push, grip, pull, turn – and as long as you use some common sense and don’t over-exert any one muscle group with a sudden or excessive action, you will find it improves your flexibility, balance, and mobility.

The problem is, too often we overdo it because we don’t think through our motions.

It Doesn’t Take Much To Get Great Results

Gardening can be physically exhausting at times, if you want it to be, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. A small garden box may be all you need for a nourishing salad and a nourishing daily exercise. Planting, trimming, pruning, watering, and tending are all part of the process, and each requires a different set of movements. You might sweat. You’ll tone some muscles you might not be thinking about otherwise. You might feel stiff and sore in the morning…at least at first. Over time, your body will begin to loosen up through regular movement. It gets easier as you do it. You’ll lose weight and your body will purge toxic junk out of your system in favor of celery – nature’s push-broom. Sorry…that’s for “Wellness Wednesday” again. Remind me to talk about that.

It’s important to remember to warm up your muscles with a simple, 2-minute stretch. Warm, soft, limber muscles respond better to this kind of activity than cold, tight, unprepared muscles. That’s why people hurt themselves in the garden: they don’t think it’s necessary to warm up.

Plus, once you start a garden, you need to make a daily habit of tending to it or it will die of neglect. The responsibility of tending a garden not only forces you to be mindful of the care of another creature, but it also stimulates the production of nurturing hormones, like serotonin.

Overall, the act of connecting with the soil, generating new life, and eating the harvest of the land is one of the best things you can do for your body (and your mind). If you have even a 4-square-foot plot of land (or you want to build a planter box), it might be the best investment you make into your own life this year.

I’ll be back with another simple exercise video next Monday, and a great wellness tip for you on “Wellness Wednesday.” I hope you’ll join me, and I hope you’ll tell a friend. With all the misinformation about health, medicine, food, exercise, and wellness, we need to work together to get the word out. too many people are sick and dying… and they don’t have to.

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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