Gardening, anyone?

There are many benefits to gardening whether one chooses to plant in pots, hoe in a backyard patch, or join others in community spaces. Besides reaping a healthy harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables and communing with nature, there is now some evidence that suggests gardening can keep those extra pounds off.

Cathleen Zick, a family and consumer studies professor at the University of Utah, did an interesting study comparing gardeners with nongardeners. The participants with the green thumbs tended community garden plots in Salt Lake City. At the end of the study, the gardeners were less likely to be overweight than their nongardening counterparts.

The study that was published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at the body mass index (BMI) of over 400 participants. The results showed that the average BMI of the gardeners was lower than the average BMI of neighbors who were not in the gardening program. This difference was equivalent to 11 pounds for woman and 16 pounds for men.

The researchers did note that the study has limitations. The data were gathered from people tending community gardens from only one district. Would these same results be seen in other areas of the country? Further thought makes me wonder if there is a greater weight loss benefit in areas with moderate winters where one could work year-round and tend cool weather plants. And would home gardeners see the same benefit? (I am willing to bet yes.)

Another limitation is the measurement used in the study. Body mass index or BMI is a measurement that uses weight and height to indicate body fat and related health risk. It is an easy calculation to carry out when doing research.

However, it is only one indication of health status. For example, the measurement does not indicate how much of one’s weight is due to muscle mass versus body fat.

Even with these limitations, it makes sense that expending energy while tending a garden could help keep weight down. Hoeing, weeding, harvesting, and walking can help one stay fit while enjoying the outdoors.

As an added benefit, one can choose to engage in conversation with other community gardeners or enjoy some contemplative time outside and increase overall well-being.

One last point. Gardening can bring on body aches for those not accustomed to the work. Make sure to garden safely. Visit the Centers for Disease Control for suggestions on safe gardening practices. If you have pets, there are suggestions for keeping them safe, too.

Enjoy your garden and the bounty it brings in fresh food, fresh air, and exercise.

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