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Home | Lifestyle | Green in the Desert | Gardening boosts physical and mental health while staying home
Photo courtesy Baylor College of Medicine

Gardening boosts physical and mental health while staying home

While people are urged to stay home to help contain the spread of COVID-19, many are turning to a popular hobby – gardening. Working in a garden can help build up physical and mental strength while passing the time and making the trips to the grocery store less frequent.

To that end, Baylor College of Medicine experts share important information on gardening.

Gardening provides an abundance of health benefits for people of all ages, said Roberta Anding, registered dietitian and assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor. People are likely to consume additional servings of fruits and vegetables grown in their own garden. It can also be a strengthening activity for elders, whether they are in strong physical shape or not.

“When we think of traditional nutrition, we think fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes or watermelon – but don’t discount herbs and spices. They’re plants too,” Anding said. “Basil, mint and rosemary all have protective compounds of phytochemicals or polyphenols that are very nutritious.”

Anding provides basic gardening tips and outlines the benefits to growing your own food:

  • The more diverse the colors, the more diverse are the protective plant-based compounds.
  • Because food is so fresh from the garden, people who are picky with fruits and vegetables may like the flavor of fresh grown fruits and vegetables more than produce from the grocery store.
  • Ugly does not mean there is a lack of nutritional value. Don’t discard “ugly” produce unless an insect or animal got into it or chewed it up.
  • Always wash your hands and your produce after digging around the garden, even if you don’t use traditional pesticides.

Studies show that people who grow their own fruits and vegetables have a healthier diet. Regardless of age, anyone can enjoy gardening indoors or outdoors.

“Elders who can’t get outside can garden with plants in the house or even arrange artificial flowers,” said Dr. Angela Catic, assistant professor in the Huffington Center on Aging and fellowship director of geriatric medicine at Baylor.

Catic explains that gardening is a great exercise, no matter your mobility level:

  • Gardening provides cardiovascular benefits, as well as strengthening and flexibility.
  • Getting outside to garden is a great way to get vitamin D, which many older adults lack.
  • Gardening can reduce agitated or anxious behaviors for patients with dementia. Being outside in nature can also reduce stress and cortisol levels.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: wide-brimmed hat, shoes with a good gripping sole, gloves to protect skin from thorn pricks or scratches. Remember to apply sunscreen and hydrate.
  • Use a bench for comfort instead of kneeling or bending over.

Gardening can be a beneficial hobby to take on while staying home throughout this global crisis, so hose off those garden supplies.

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