Whether you're a plant wizard or just starting out, here are some science-backed reasons to give your 'green thumb' a good workout all year round.
It's like playing a sport
It may come as a surprise, but according to a study from Harvard Medical School, 30 minutes of gardening can see you burn between 135 and 189 calories, depending on your weight. That's more than you would burn playing non-competitive volleyball or golf, and it's comparable to activities like badminton and gymnastics.
There's no age limit
It's never too early or too late to start; in fact, it's a great activity for children and seniors alike. The Ministry of Health recommends older Kiwis to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five days each week, and gardening can be an excellent way to stay regularly active. What's more, gardening can improve your flexibility, just like stretching, yoga, and pilates.
It's a good excuse to enjoy the sun
Experts estimate that 32% of New Zealanders are below the recommended blood levels of vitamin D. Why is it important? As Health Navigator explains here, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and keep your bones and muscles healthy. Provided you have your sunscreen on and some protective clothing, gardening can be a perfect excuse to spend some time in the sun and get your much-needed fix of vitamins.
It helps improve your mental wellbeing
According to a 2016 study, people who engage in 30 minutes of gardening tend to report better mood and self-esteem than those who don't. And the benefits don't end there. Gardening can be an opportunity to practice mindfulness and be in the moment, which also has many positive outcomes like improved focus, memory boosting, stress reduction and reduced rumination. And you don't need a quarter acre to feel the difference: a 'tiny patch of nature' is enough to reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol, as UK research found.
You can grow social connections as well
Gardening can help you cultivate your social network too. There are community gardens all over New Zealand to join — 21 in Wellington alone. So, why not join one? You may learn a new skill, help the environment, produce your own food, and share extra seeds or plants that you don't use with other like-minded green thumbs.
Don't want to get your hands dirty?
No problem. Multiple studies showed time and time again that 'green care', or therapy by exposure to plants and gardening, is beneficial to people's overall health. According to research, simply observing nature or images of natural scenes can help boost your mood and relax your body. Fun fact: the Japanese even have an expression for that, 'shinrin-yoku', which can be translated as 'forest bathing'.
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