I do exercise, but I don’t feel smug. That’s because I don’t know if it’s enough. Or the right kind. And I think I’m not the only person out there who feels this way.
I walk. I garden. But when I offer this to my doctor when I’m asked, I usually feel a bit lacking somehow. But recently this changed, because an interesting research-based conversation has popped up around exercise and the garden. (And now I do feel smug.) Seems like there is an uncomplicated, common-sense approach to exercise which works. Here goes.
Go out into the garden. Enjoy yourself. Snip, sweep, do a little weeding, spread some mulch, move those pots, go inside to make a sandwich to bring outside to eat while you plan what to do next, then plant your seedlings, move that leggy rose to where it will get more sun, trim that low branch over the side path…. (you get the idea). Many studies now show that if you keep doing this, you will live a longer healthier life. And if you play back your day – moving about, bending, reaching, carrying – you can probably see how the act of gardening manages to do it. And how did you feel while you were out there. Happy? Relaxed? Yes? Well that’s got to be good.
OK, this is a bit of a ‘Duh’ moment, but a very nice one. I’ve no idea what most people think but I don’t want to embrace exercise in a form that I don’t enjoy. (No gym, jogging or that sweaty yoga.) I know that if I want exercise to become part of my life long-term, it needs to fit in with me and my interests. Take that study of 100 year old Japanese people in Okinawa. These people grow gardens and eat what they grow. They have managed to seamlessly fit their exercise regime into their long lives.
Is garden soil this good for us? Apart from the exercise benefits and the fresh eats, there is some suggestion that being in the garden gives you a health boost in other ways – thanks to the sun and the dirt. The Vitamin D your skin generates when it’s outside is a good one, though it needs to be balanced by the risk of UV rays on your skin. The dirt one is a bit fuzzier and I’ve heard arguments against and in favour of it, (who hasn’t heard those magic words, “A little dirt won’t hurt”)? Now I guess this depends the scenario: a toddler eating fist-fulls dug from an old service station (rich in benzene and lead) or a light dusting of essential minerals & soil flora on an organically grown carrot. Maybe the dirt has more of a beneficial affect on how we moderate our need for perfection in life. If it’s fun being dirty now and then, maybe we don’t need to stress when the other ducks in our lives don’t necessarily line up in a row…. but that’s getting a bit too deep.