(can also be viewed with graphics at https://isolatorfitness.com/blog/gardening-healthy-garden-healthy-self/)

Healthy living doesn’t just mean spending a few hours at the gym every week and watching what you eat. Living a healthy lifestyle is about incorporating healthy behaviors into every aspect of your life and building and strengthening good habits. The point of a healthy lifestyle is to reduce your risk of disease and increase both your length of life and your quality of life. The basic foundation of a healthy self is: proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and quality sleep, but as we all know, there is more to life than these three aspects. Being well rounded in all areas of wellness is what makes your lifestyle truly healthy.

Gardening For Nutrition

What Are The Health Benefits Of Growing My Own Food?

You’re In Control

There are many benefits to growing your own food, but healthy wise, the most significant one is that you are in complete control of what kinds of fertilizers and pest controls come into contact with your food. If you want your food to be completely organic, you can do that. If you’d prefer vegetables that have only been grown in natural soils, you can do that too. It’s all completely up to you when you grow your own fruits and vegetables.

You’ll Eat More Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Some people go to the grocery store everyday, or every other day, so that they can pick out the freshest ingredients for their meals; however, the majority of people go about two to four times per month and stock up on the essentials so that they don’t have to spend more time or money at the grocery store than absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a garden at home, and you aren’t a frequent visitor of the grocery store (or farmer's market), then you are probably not eating many of your fruits or vegetables fresh. It is likely that your buying these sources canned or frozen to get a longer life out of them, since the fresh variety would likely spoil before you got around to cooking or eating it.

With a garden of your own however, eating fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is as easy as stepping outside and harvesting whatever you’re in the mood for on any given day. And because you are the one that did the planting, and the growing, you’ll know just the right time to harvest and enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.

You’ll Get More Nutrients

Plants that are allowed to ripen in our own gardens provide us with more nutrients because they were not picked before they were finished growing; which means that they had more time to mature and soak up the nutrients of the soils than prematurely picked grocery store variety vegetables. Since the fruits and vegetables that you buy at the grocery store have to be picked early so that they do not go bad by the time you buy them, they do not provide you with the maximum nutrition available.

What Should I Grow In My Healthy Garden?

When you are deciding what to grow in your own garden it is important to keep in mind the types of foods that you like to eat. You should not pick items just because they are easier to grow, more exotic, or because they seem to be popular items in others gardens. None of those factors will matter when it comes time to harvest your crops and enjoy your bounty, if you will not actually eat or enjoy what you’ve grown. Aside from choosing foods that you enjoy, there are a few other pieces of advice for that hold true no matter who you are, or where you’ll be gardening.

Gardening Easy To Grow Crops

If you are new to gardening, you’ll want to make sure that the crops you are choosing to grow are easy to grow, so that you don’t spend too much time or frustration trying to eat healthy. Remember that the easier something is to adapt to, the more likely you are to continue to do it. Along these same lines, it’s also beneficial to choose crops with short growing cycles or long harvest cycles. A short growing cycle is nice because it allows you to plant a variety of crops year round. While a long harvest cycle is beneficial so that you don’t have to worry about waiting for your crops to mature.

Gardening Locally Grown Crops

To make your life easier, you’ll want to choose crops that are native to your area, because they’ll be easier to grow in your natural soil. It’s important to keep your local climate and soil type in mind when choosing which fruits and vegetables to plant, because if they don’t adapt well to their surroundings, they will be far more difficult to grow and maintain. It is important to note that some plants simply will not grow in certain climates and soil types.

Gardening Pest and Disease Resistant Crops

If you are adimately against artificial pest controls, and want your fruits and vegetables to be as healthy as possible, then choosing crops that are naturally pest and disease resistant is incredibly important. Even if you don’t mind using pest controls on your future food, it is a good idea to research and plant pest and disease resistant fruits and vegetables anyway, so that your time, money, and energy isn’t wasted on spoiled, or infected food.

Gardening For Exercise

Gardening Burns Calories

A Moderate To High Intensity Workout
Did you know that gardening is considered a moderate to high intensity workout? Between digging, mulching, raking, weeding, hoeing, sowing, and harvesting, there’s enough physical labor involved in maintaining your own garden to help you slim down, before you even take a bite of a freshly grown fruit or vegetable. The highest intensity activity in the garden is digging, which is succeeded by raking, weeding, mulching, hoeing, sowing, and harvesting. Therefore, to get the biggest physical benefit out of your garden, it’s a good idea to plant items with short crop cycles, that will force you to be more active everyday.

Calories Burned
As with any other form of exercise, the amount of calories burned while gardening is directly related to the amount of time spent engaged in the activity, and how hard you worked. Since digging is the highest intensity activity it would make sense that on average the most calories would be burned during this activity: women can expect to burn about 150 calories while men should expect to burn about 197 calories. During the actual planting women average about 135 calories burned while a man will burn about 177 calories for the same amount of work. These numbers are based on 30 minutes worth of continual exercise and movement.

Gardening For A Healthy Heart & Mind

Heart Healthy

As we’ve learned, gardening is a moderate to high intensity workout, and thus, as with any other workout, it encourages the release of endorphins. The release of endorphins into the brain while gardening helps to reduce the amount of stress a person feels emotionally, which in turn relaxes them psychologically and physically. This promotion of relaxation in the mind can be linked to a positive relationship between a person's blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Studies have shown that while these numbers drop, so does your individual risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Brain Booster

Nature has also been shown to have significant benefits to the human psyche for improved memory, creativity boosts, and feelings of well-being. Due to the relaxing nature of gardening, many people begin their engagement in the craft for reasons beyond nutritional or physical health, and end up reaping those benefits as an added bonus, to their psychological well being. As little as thirty minutes of interaction with nature on a daily basis is enough to improve the quality and length of your life.

Gardening For A Stronger Self

Stronger Body

Many of the movements involved with gardening are particularly beneficial to the mobility of your joints and the strengthening of your muscles. These two assets work together to increase both the flexibility and stability of your body, which will not only benefit your current life, but will significantly improve the quality of your life in your later years. As we age the body slowly begins to break down, but if we have a strong body foundation, and continue to work on improving it, the degeneration that we’ll encounter will be much less than someone who spends little to no time on physical prospects.

Stronger Mind

While gardening helps to destress your mind and body, it also has another mind strengthening attribute that is worth mentioning. When you’re out in the garden you are unplugged from electronics, modern technology, and completely and effortlessly tuned in to the natural world. This connection with your roots is what helps to center and balance your mind for free flowing and creative thoughts, ideas, and ingenuity. Without the pressures of the modern world weighing heavy on your shoulders, you are more likely to expand your thought processes and increase your mental capacity.

Gardening For Self

Zest For Life

It is fairly normal to feel invigorated during most types of physical activity, but gardening is a unique workout in that it gives you a special zest for life. This is most likely due to the fact that when you are gardening, your body, mind, and soul are all connected to the same current activity and future goal. It is an activity that focuses on boosting multiple facets of the wellness cycle, including: physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and environmental. Few activities can claim aid to as many wellness benefits, which helps to explain why gardening is so beneficial to our overall health, fitness, and well-being.

Feel Younger

Feeling younger through gardening is two fold. The first of which has to do with the fact that gardening helps to strengthen so many areas of your body, so that you are able to move and function better. From the physical strength you receive through the increase muscle mass, joint mobility, and bone density, to the psychological strength you gain through released endorphins, and being unplugged from the stressors created by modern technology and electronics, gardening enhances your quality of life, which in turn creates a younger feeling and more vibrant self.

The second way that gardening makes you feel younger, is by making you appreciate the age and beauty of the nature that surrounds you. In today’s world the objects and goods that we choose to surround ourselves with are often the newest and shiniest options, which in their own way can make us feel successful and accomplished; but these new and fancy items can also make us feel outdated and old, when their technologies and advancements surpass our knowledge or understanding of them. When this happens it is rejuvenating to stop and immerse yourself in your garden as a reminder that the natural world was here long before you arrived and will thrive long after you’re gone, and when you compare yourself to that kind of time you’ll realize that you’re as young as they come.

Be Happier

Studies have shown that gardening can reduce the likelihood that you will suffer from depression. The connection lies within the physical connection that you begin to feel with the earth and your surroundings. By attaching yourself to the physical world through the growth and maintenance of your own garden you begin to feel more at peace with your place in the world, because you are adding your own personal touch to the space that surrounds you. Gardening has been shown to reduce depression levels in those already suffering, by the same concepts of connection and contribution.

Author's Bio: 

Lexi Cahill is a Penn State University graduate with a degree in Mass Communications & Media Studies. She is a humanitarian who is enthusiastic about giving back to her local and global community through both monetary donations and community service. She has sponsored a child from Ethiopia through Compassion and volunteered locally at both the Lititz Community Recreational Center (where she was a summer camp counselor for children), and the Lititz Moravian Manor (where she provided companionship to the Alzheimer's patients). Her dedication to helping improve the lives of others is what drives her. She has turned her passions for writing and humanity into a career with Isolator Fitness where she shares her knowledge of nutrition, fitness, and general health through articles published on their website. All of Lexi’s articles can also be viewed at the blog (https://isolatorfitness.com/blog/)