Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Gardening is Good For You
In today's hectic world, there’s a peaceful place to get away from it all. Instead of a sandy beach or cabin in the woods, imagine soil, seeds and sunlight. Imagine a place where you can relax, be active and gather healthy food right in your own backyard. This place – a garden – is where you’ll find the best ingredients for physical, emotional and nutritional wellbeing.
"In this day and age, with everything so busy and so much electronic stimulation, I think disconnecting and getting back in touch with nature is something we all really need," says Lisa Hoare, a gardener at Fletcher Allen. "Gardening really engages your creativity, and small achievements come frequently. To have a healthy tomato or glossy eggplant to pick is very rewarding."
The physical benefits of gardening
In addition to boosting creativity and satisfaction, gardening can also help burn calories, increase flexibility and build strength.
- You can burn as many calories in 45 minutes of gardening as in 30 minutes of aerobics.
- One hour of weeding burns 300 calories (the same as walking or bicycling at a moderate pace).
- In one study, women 50 and older who gardened at least once per week had a higher bone density than those who jogged, walked, swam or participated in aerobics.
- Research shows that gardening for just 30 minutes a day will help decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lower your risk of diabetes, slow osteoporosis, and boost immune infection.
- Greens – spinach, lettuces, kale and Swiss chard – are the most forgiving vegetables when it comes to gardening. Greens are high in folate, fiber and Vitamins A, C and K, and have phytonutrients and antioxidants, which include anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
- Tomatoes are delicious, nutritious and easy to grow, but also need significant sun. Ludlow says tomato plants that do not receive a solid six hours of sun each day will not produce well. She recommends planting the sun gold cherry tomato, which is productive and sweet. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamin A and C, and rich in Vitamin K and potassium.
- Peppers are another garden favorite. Pepper plants don’t grow tall and are excellent for small spaces. Peppers are rich in Vitamins A and C, B6, as well as phytonutrients and fiber. Like tomatoes, peppers also need plenty of sun.
- Herbs are healthy, simple to grow and take up very little space. Perennial herbs like oregano, chives and thyme are tasty and maintenance-free. Annual herbs such as basil, dill and cilantro are nutritious and easy to grow as well.
Maryann Ludlow, a registered dietician at Fletcher Allen, says that gardening is an excellent and simple way to incorporate healthy foods into your diet. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are all easy to plant and grow.
Whether you plant just one vegetable this spring or a half-dozen, Hoare encourages people to keep their gardens simple and manageable. She recommends to plant only what you’ll eat and plant what you can manage. For beginners, she recommends planting a salad garden with lettuce, tomatoes and peppers to keep things on a smaller scale.
Above all, Hoare says, gardening should be fun and rewarding.
"When I garden, I love seeing the connection between all living things – the soil, seeds and plants," she says. "Digging my hands into the Earth, listening to the birds and watching wildlife is very relaxing and peaceful. And with that comes such a huge amount of satisfaction."