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7 Health Benefits of Gardening

7 Health Benefits of Gardening

While some people like to get their hands dirty literally, pouring their love into soil and actually growing plants, crops, or flowers, others just shy away from the whole idea completely, concluding gardening as a gross pastime that is not for them. Health experts have actually shown that gardening is good for your health. Surprised? Don’t be. Let’s take a look at some of the ways gardening actually aids us in maintaining good health.

1. Stress Relief

Gardening allows you to be more relaxed and one with all the sunshine and fresh air. It equally boosts your immune system function while enabling you to be more productive because there’s no greater measure of one’s power to create positive change in the world than to nurture a plant from a seed to a fruit-bearing plant. Studies have shown that after a day of sitting at your desk, or after a highly stressful day, getting your hands into the dirt and nurturing your garden reduces levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

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2. Physical Activity

Gardening might just be all the workout you need. As a pleasurable and goal-oriented outdoor activity, gardening has another advantage because people are more likely to stick with it and do it often. It is important to note that the amount of exertion needed for gardening really depends on the size of the garden. Gardening is hardly like pumping iron. Unless you’re hauling wheelbarrows of dirt long distances daily, mowing or shoveling or pruning probably won’t do much for your cardiovascular fitness.

However, digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching are excellent forms of low-impact exercise. This could be more effective, especially for people who find more energetic exercise a challenge, like people who are older or suffering from a chronic disease. Besides, general activities in gardening also help to get your blood pumping.

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3. Anti-depressants

Dirt contains a natural antidepressant called mycobacterium vaccae. According to research, this particular antidepressant microbe causes cytokine levels to increase, which in turns boosts the production of serotonin. People with some mental illnesses have been advised to try horticultural therapy, a garden with a combination of fruits and vegetables as well as scented and flowering plants to nourish all the senses. From visual aesthetic appeal to the refreshing scent of fresh flowers to the nutritional benefits, succeeding at gardening also fosters a sense of confidence, satisfaction, and increases self-esteem.

Once the flowers have bloomed and the fruits have been harvested, looking back on the work that went into the gardening and landscaping will provide you with an overwhelming sense of pride, confidence, and satisfaction, which helps to deal or helps patients cope with illnesses. The overall benefits, apart from the one listed above, seem to spring from a combination of physical activity, awareness of their surroundings, cognitive stimulation, and the satisfaction derived from the work. This is why different farming techniques like the hydroponics farming system is becoming more popular in many therapy centers.[1]

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4. Healthier Food

People who grow food tend to eat healthier than those that don’t, as several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers. Home gardens are likely to be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables that are organic and free of harsh chemicals, which are among the healthiest food that should be in our diets. Homegrown produce have also been reported to taste better than store-bought produce.

5. Brain Nutrition

One long-term study followed nearly 3,000 older adults for 16 years, tracking the incidence of all kinds of dementia and assessing a variety of lifestyle factors. Researchers found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidences by 36%. Another study estimated the risk reduction at a whopping 47%. This is because gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including learning, problem-solving, and sensory awareness, that its benefits are likely to represent a synthesis of various aspects.

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6. Hand Strength and Dexterity

As people get older, agility and strength in the hands may gradually reduce and this may limit the range of activities that are possible or pleasurable for them. Gardening, however, keeps those hand muscles vigorous and agile. Remember not to overdo it, as gardening can also cause repetitive stress injuries, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel. Practice hand-healthy gardening by using a few simple warm-ups, positioning your body comfortably and ergonomically, changing tasks frequently before strain becomes evident, and also balancing tasks between both hands also helps the brain.

7. Vitamin D

Gardening gets you out in the sun, sunlight being a good source of vitamin D. Very few foods actually contain vitamin D, which is instrumental in preventing a number of chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Those with low vitamin D levels may be doubling their risk of dying of heart disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.

Gardening has a lot of positive effects on us as individuals, on the environment, and on the planet as a whole. Many now consider gardening as a form of spiritual cultural quest.[2] This, in part, is because gardening and tending the plants can be soothing and has great impact on our health. The good thing about it is that you can start small if the idea of gardening overwhelms you. You could start with a few pots of flowers, set time out to see to their care, and grow to love the soil.

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Amber McNaught

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

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My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8PM one evening to 12PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Tips To Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[2] like a drink that contains sugar and cause you to overeat.

4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

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You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[3].

Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[4].

The influence intermittent fasting weight loss has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[5].

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This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fa-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

How Much Weight Will I Lose?

The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors. Fasting for 16-20 hours a day can help you safely lose 2-3 pounds of fat every week.

While losing this much weight every week is great, it’s how it makes it happen that’s really cool. Losing weight with intermittent fasting means that you will never have to count calories or plan and prepare several meals a day.

Can I Work out While Fasting?

Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are 3-4 intense strength training workouts weekly. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts.

Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

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Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen. Studies actually show that even after fasting for 3 days, no muscle is lost.

Is Fasting Safe?

As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting style of dieting.

I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when your ability to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to ensure that your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.

I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branch chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

Conclusion

Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly, safely, and pretty much effortlessly.

If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with you lifestyle and give it a go.

More About Intermittent Fasting

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

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