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Garden your way to health

Focused on Health - April 2014

By Brittany Cordeiro

Whether you’re growing plants for appearance or consumption, gardening has many health benefits. gardening

David Renninger knows this first hand. He’s the project manager of the Healthy Living Garden at MD Anderson. “Checking the garden often helps me relax and feel restored,” Renninger says.

Our experts agree. Here are a few ways gardening can benefit your health.

Exercise

Digging in the dirt, pulling weeds and pushing a wheel barrel can burn as many calories as aerobic exercise. And, burning calories can help you maintain a healthy weight so you’ll be more likely to stay cancer-free. 

For gardening to count as exercise, do it for 30 to 45 minutes and vary your activities and movements. Not sure you’re working hard enough? You should be breathing a little heavier, your heart should be pumping a little faster and you should feel a slight burn in your muscles.

Stress relief and relaxation

Feeling worried, anxious or stressed? Use your garden as a place to relax. “Just the sight of a garden can instantly put you in a good mood,” Renninger says.

Research shows that surrounding yourself in a natural landscape and doing 30 minutes of outdoor gardening can reduce stress and improve your mood.

For an extra soothing touch, decorate your landscape with warm and cool colors, curves and rounded lines, or even a water stream. 

Improve mental health

The longer you garden, the better your mental health may be. Gardening can help alleviate or prevent symptoms of depression, like fatigue and sadness, and improve memory function. 

Plus, you don’t have to go at it alone. Join a community garden to increase your social health.

Fresh, nutritious food

Growing fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in your garden promotes healthy eating. And, eating a nutritious plant-based diet is one of the best ways to lower your cancer risks. cilantro

Here are health benefits of some of plants growing in the Healthy Living Garden.

Herbs like, arugula, cilantro and basil, are growing at MD Anderson. You can flavor your food with them instead of salt to help reduce your risk of stomach cancer. 

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals that may help protect you from colorectal cancer. Just keep your serving sizes small because this starchy vegetable is high in calories.

Squash are high in vitamin A and C to keep your immune system strong.

Tomatoes are full of cancer prevention goodness: vitamin C, fiber, minerals, lycopene and antioxidants.

“Gardening connects people with the health and wellness benefits of nature and improves quality of life,” Renninger says. And, the upkeep can be simple. So, start digging.

READ ALSO: How to start a healthy garden

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center