Saturday, October 22, 2011

Improve Your Fitness - By Gardening by John King

Anyone who has a TV or Internet connection must have seen publicity relating to the need for the British public to get fitter, eat healthier and generally to take better care of themselves. All the statistics point to the 'takeaway society' culture which stems from our busy lifestyles, long hours and daily commutes where a cheese roll at the railway station eaten quickly forms part of a daily diet for many Brits.

So what can be a better way of killing 3 birds with one stone by embarking on a hobby that relaxes the mind, tones the body and provides families with nutritious food throughout the year? We are of course referring to 'grow your own gardening' – a phenomenon currently sweeping the UK at such a rate that government statistics suggest that more people are now growing their own food than since the end of World War 2 and demand for allotments massively outstrips available plots.

Gardening can burn up to 300 calories an hour. This is the same as other forms of moderate exercise such as walking and cycling but you need to be active for at least 30 minutes at any one time for there to be any real benefits. Although that shouldn't be difficult, if like us, you think about how quickly the weeds grow during the warmer months! Once you have finished reading this article, weeding your flower beds will never again seem such an attractive prospect!

If you think about the type of work that you do in the garden, you can usually categorise each element into what part of the body it is helping to tone up.

For example, squatting down 'pulling' those really annoying weeds or digging your veg patch over will help tone your thighs and buttocks. Mowing your lawn, raking the grass or leaves will strengthen your upper arms and shoulders, as well as toning your abdominal muscles. However, this will be more beneficial if you use a manual mower rather than a petrol or electric type and it goes without saying that there is no benefit in using the sit-on mower. Finally, just think what benefits your biceps are receiving when you are trimming those hedges and pruning the shrubs. It's a win/win – a beautifully maintained garden and a beautifully maintained body.

Not only is gardening a really good form of exercise but it also has many general health and psychological benefits as well:

Research shows that if you spend between 30 and 45 minutes gardening most days, which is not really inconceivable during the summer months, there are health benefits to people such as decreasing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.

There are also psychological benefits to gardening too. Studies show that looking at flowers and trees reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and relieves tension in muscles. Being outdoors and in touch with nature can remove the day to day stress of everyday life. Being outside can help give people a real sense of well being, especially when you consider the amount of time we spend indoors, or in cars, trains or planes getting to and from work,.

Some people suffer from a lack of vitamin D. The sun is the humans’ natural intended source of this vitamin so getting outdoors to work in your garden in the fresh air will provide you with more of the vitamin, just so long as you don't over do-it and over expose your skin to the sunshine. Getting out into the fresh air and sunlight can also improve your mood too, especially if you are one of the many people who suffer from the condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects people during the winter months when there is very little sunlight.

Of course there are the tangible benefits of what you actually grow in your garden. Many people find that growing their own fruit and vegetables is one of the best aspects of gardening, preferring this to having lovely flowers and an immaculate lawn.

Growing your own vegetables will cost far less to grow than buying them and, furthermore, your home grown vegetables are likely to taste a lot better too (try picking asparagus and cooking within an hour or harvesting and you'll know exactly what we mean). You will also have the benefit of knowing exactly where your vegetables have come from and what has been used in the growing process. Another point to bear in mind is that the greater the time between a vegetable being picked and being eaten, the more goodness it loses so produce grown at home beats supermarket 'fresh' foods hands down. Furthermore, your family are far more likely to be encouraged to eat the recommended 5 portions of vegetables a day if they have been 'home grown', as you will have grown all the fruit and vegetables that all the family enjoy. So for so many different health and economic reasons growing your own makes a lot of sense.

Therefore, if you want to feel fitter and healthier but are reluctant to join a gym, then enjoy your garden instead, and if you don't happen to have a garden but would love to take advantage of this fun, healthier way of life, then sign up for an allotment in your local area. These can be hard to come by currently, but more and more people with land are handing this over to the people in their community as way of utilising land that they are finding hard to maintain. Look up 'landshare gardening' on an Internet Search Engine for websites dedicated to this worthy cause.