I realize it is early in the year and we will probably have at least two more months of cold weather, but as a Master Gardener, I am always thinking about gardening! Also, because I am an ACE certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, fitness is another thing that is always on my mind.
The next session of Master Gardener classes begins on February 4th, and we still have some openings available. The classes in the winter/spring meet every Thursday morning from 9am to 1:30pm for 13 weeks, whereas the fall classes meet every Thursday evening. Most of the classes meet at Belle Mina. These classes are a combination of Morgan County, Limestone County and Madison County students. Classes are taught by college professors, county extension people, state Master Gardeners, and other professionals. The topics include just about everything from soils, to fruit and vegetables, to grass, and flowers. For more information regarding the classes and Master Gardeners, visit the Master Gardener website (www.mg.aces.edu) or call me at 256-614-3530.
Gardening offers both mental and physical health benefits. Being out in nature, (whether it is on your back patio, out in the woods or in the mountains,) is very relaxing and healing. Gardening is associated with mental clarity, feelings of reward, and offers physical benefits. From soil preparation to the joy of harvesting, there is always a task! If you have ever done any gardening, you know this is great exercise. Whether you enjoy working in your own private garden or community garden projects, gardening is great for fitness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate-intensity level activity for 2.5 hours each week can reduce the risk for obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death. The CDC considers gardening a moderate-intensity level activity, and can help you to achieve that 2.5 hour goal each week. Additionally, those who choose gardening as their moderate-intensity exercise are more likely to exercise 40-50 minutes longer on average than those who choose activities like walking or biking. In addition to the physical activity, you can get your vitamin D. The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer.
The type of exercise you get by gardening are the things you need to continue to do in everyday life – bending, kneeling, reaching, carrying objects, pulling, and pushing. Gardening is a great way to incorporate the entire body while exercising.
Let’s not forget about the mental benefits of gardening! Many experts say the fresh air can help prevent Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is a disorder common in all age groups. Gardening has also been shown to be a stress reliever. Stress can cause irritability, headaches, stomach aches, heart attacks and worsen other pre-existing conditions in the body.
Experiments have compared gardening to reading as a stress-relieving activity. Test subjects that gardened experienced a more significant decrease in stress when compared to the subjects that were assigned to read. Of course, we already know that physical exercise helps your brain stay sharp. It increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss. Exercise also enhances the effects of helpful brain chemicals and reduces stress hormones.
Finally, if the mental and physical benefits are not enough to encourage you to garden, there are other things like increased property value. Also, if you grow your own vegetables, you might save money on your grocery bill!
If you want more information about Master Gardener classes, contact Janet at 256-614-3530 or call your local extension office at 256-232-5510.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.