Blog June 5, 2013
Garden your way to good health
By Melissa Lem
Warm weather and long, sunny days mean that the growing season is finally here for farmers across the country. For the ultimate local food diet, why not create an urban farm right in your own backyard?
Along with pantries full of tasty fruits and vegetables, gardeners also enjoy major health benefits. Multiple studies have linked gardening to increased physical activity and produce consumption, resulting in lower risks of hypertension, obesity, cancer and heart disease. Incredibly, a 1999 study from the University of Washington found that adults who gardened for over an hour per week were two-thirds less likely to suffer cardiac arrest compared to their inactive peers.
Gardening is also an effective mood booster. One fascinating 2011 study from the Netherlands revealed that just 30 minutes of gardening reduced salivary cortisol (stress hormone) levels by 22 percent. Other research points to a decreased risk of dementia, as well as improved life satisfaction—and more than $500 in average grocery bill savings per year would put a smile on anyone’s face!
What’s more, community gardens can be powerful vehicles for healthy change. A 2000 survey in upstate New York described positive local impacts ranging from less littering to the formation of neighbourhood parks and child-care networks. Urban farms also create biodiverse havens for birds and butterflies, reduce soil erosion and elevate air quality. It’s no surprise that there are now over 18,000 community gardens in North America—and counting.
If you don’t have a backyard or community garden nearby, windowsills and balcony planters are great places to exercise that green thumb too. So grab your gumboots, shine your shovel and get growing in the city with thousands of other Canadians this spring!
A member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Melissa Lem is a Toronto family doctor who also works in rural and remote communities across Canada. She can also be seen making regular appearances on CBC's Steven and Chris.