Gardening has many health benefits. You get some sunshine and some fresh air for starters. If you’re doing some planting and some weeding, you also get some exercise (click here for more health benefits of gardening.) Flower gardens can also benefit your mental health. They are beautiful to look at and tending to them can be meditative for the mind. But to really extend the health benefits of gardening, why not consider having a vegetable plot? Better yet, follow this health advice: join a community garden.
Many urban areas have now allocated space for community garden plots. Getting one for yourself usually involves a simple application process. Community gardens are places where you can grow natural foods full of antioxidants and other healthful nutrients for you and your family.
A recent study performed by the Department of Family Medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University has looked at the health benefits of organic community gardens. The research team devised a project that educated Hispanic farmworker families in planting and maintaining organic gardens. The study included a pre- and post-gardening survey, interviews, and observations. These measures were used by the researchers to assess food security, health benefits, and family relationships.
In all, 42 families enrolled in the 2009 gardening season. Of the families enrolled during the pre-gardening time period, there were 163 household members. The mean age of the interviewee was 44, while the average number of occupants in a household was four.
The researchers found that, once the gardening program was in full swing, the frequency of adult vegetable intake increased from 18% to 84%(!). The frequency of children’s vegetable intake also increased significantly from 24% to 64%. Before the gardening season, the percentage of participants worrying in the past month that food would run out before money was available to buy more was 31.2%. Once the garden program was launched, this percentage dropped to just three percent.
Analysis of other data from the study revealed that there were also physical and mental health benefits as a result of participating in the community gardening program. Economic benefits were recorded and families said their relationships were healthier, because they worked together in the garden alongside other families and interacted socially.
The researchers concluded by stating that a community gardening program could reduce food insecurity, improve dietary intake, and strengthen family relationships. That’s all the motivation you should need to get involved in your own community garden!