Community gardening is a wonderful way to bring communities together, make new friends, and learn new skills. However there are also an abundance of important health benefits of getting involved in community gardening. Community gardens can play a vital role in sustaining the nutritional needs of those individuals involved in them, which in turn can help to battle illness and disease. Here are just some of the healthy benefits that can be reaped from community gardening:
Community gardening can help to ensure that you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables at the lowest possible cost. In recent years the cost of fresh food has risen considerably, make it out of the reach of the budgets of many. However when you are growing your own fruits and vegetables you will have an abundant supply to ensure your table always contains fresh produce for the lowest possible price. Being involved in a community garden is also a wonderful way to educate yourself about the nutritional benefits of ensuring you are eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis: this can be particularly helpful if you have young children and would like to involve them in the process of growing their own food and understanding where fresh foods come from. There are many members of our community that have very limited nutritional education, and struggle to ensure that they are eating a healthy and balanced diet on a daily basis. Those individuals from a lower socioeconomic demographic, those who have struggled with eating disorders such an anorexia or bulimia, or those who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction generally simply do not know what they should or shouldn’t be eating, or how much fresh produce they should aim to ingest on a daily basis. However good nutrition is massively important for these groups in particular, and by ensuring that nutritional education and the ability to grow their own fresh produce is available to everyone, community gardening ensures brighter and healthier futures for our communities.
Benefits for Physical Health
Gardening is a great work out, and is often recommended as a wonderful form of moderate exercise no matter what your fitness levels. The great thing about gardening is that anyone can do it: regardless of your age or your ability, anyone can benefit from getting out in the fresh air and growing their own produce. Gardening can help you to build up your muscle strength and burn calories, contributing to the enhancement of your physical fitness and increasing your overall health. Gardening involves a great deal of stretching, thanks to the bending and lifting involved in planting, weeding, and raking, which can improve your levels of flexibility. However unlike other low impact forms of exercise (for example jogging or joining an aerobics class) gardening doesn’t involve any jarring or stress on the body that can be detrimental if you are new to exercise, feeling the effects of aging, or suffer from any long term health condition that can make strenuous exercise difficult.
The Mental Health Benefits
Gardening can have a hugely positive impact on mental health: simply being outside in the fresh air can be enriching and research has found that the simple act of gardening can increase both an individual’s brain activity and endorphin levels. In fact, gardening can be so beneficial for mental health that those working in the field have developed horticultural therapy as a means of harnessing the positive mental health benefits to be gained from gardening and using them to treat hospital patients and even calm those individuals who are incarcerated. Many hospitals and rehabilitation facilities now contain ‘healing gardens’, where residents can walk and enjoy being surrounded by nature. If you are feeling stressed or anxious by your day to day life then gardening can help to relieve this anxiety by both calming you down and providing a welcome distraction: something else to focus your mind on. After all, no matter how hard you work on a garden, there is always weeding to be done!
The health benefits of community gardening are so wide reaching and all-encompassing that it’s clear to see why so many community gardens, such as our own, are so oversubscribed with long waiting lists of individuals keen to reap these health benefits for themselves.
Article courtesy of Gemma Hunt