From the perspective of a fitness and nutrition coach

Growing a vegetable garden is one of the healthiest things you can do this spring. There are many reasons why gardening is healthy and it is not just about the food you grow.

I live in a high altitude, northern climate with a very short growing season. Sometimes it seems like trying to grow the few vegetables that will grow here is hardly worth the effort or the cost. But when I actually do put the effort in to grow some vegetables, I find my efforts are rewarded in so many ways.

Gardening is considered exercise

Gardening can be considered moderate physical activity. You are raking, shovelling, lifting, bending and walking. Depending on what you are doing, gardening can even be considered to be vigorous physical activity. Not surprisingly, you get the benefits of physical activity, including lower risk of most chronic diseases, better weight control, and increased cognitive function. Gardening also has the added benefit of being a functional activity. You are moving in multiple planes of motion and using muscles in ways you would never use them in a gym.

Gardening helps to relieve stress

According to a study done in the Netherlands, people who garden report lower levels of stress. Of course the Netherlands has a much more gardening friendly climate than we have here in Alberta. It is hard to not get stressed out about the garden you spent hours planting only to see it ruined by a hail storm or a late frost. (Don’t even get me started about the deer.) There is however a wonderful lifting of the spirit to see something you have planted grow.

Being outdoors in itself can help with stress reduction. We just feel closer to nature when we are outdoors. The repetitive nature of gardening can also help to reduce stress.

You are more likely to eat what you grow

The convenience of being able to go out to the garden and pick a fresh salad can’t be beat. And who wants to waste the produce grown with their own hands. You are likely to find yourself looking for recipes that use the vegetables you have grown and the vegetables may become the centre of your meal rather than a side note.

Garden fresh vegetables taste better

Have you ever tasted a carrot fresh from the garden? Or some tomatoes just off the vine. The flavour can be so good you want to eat more. It doesn’t have that “picked before it was ripe and travelled 2000 km in a truck” taste.

Garden fresh vegetables can be healthier

Because you can sometimes pick and eat, vegetables that come fresh out of the garden have not had a chance to lose any nutrients. You can choose how you want to garden – adding compost and using organic methods to eliminate pests. Or choosing conventional methods, but knowing exactly how it has been grown.

How to get started.

If you have a plot of land that you can convert to a garden, that is great. I recommend finding some gardening books that are specific to your area and trying to grow some vegetables that are considered easy to grow where you live. Grow what you like. It makes no sense to grow cabbage if you don’t like cabbage.
If you don’t have any space for gardening, many communities have garden plots that you can rent. Another option is trying to grow a few things in pots on a balcony. If you get lots of sun, tomatoes or peppers are good choices. Even a pot of herbs grown in a window sill is a good way to start seeing the benefits of growing some of what you eat.