Abigail Mackey

Column Abigail Mackey

Health columnist Abigail Mackey writes "The Written Remedy" for the Observer-Reporter.

Gardening: The unexpected multitasker

Gardening excellent option for those with chronic pain

May 8, 2013

Imagine combining grocery shopping, working out, a facial and meditation all in one.

Sound good? Pick up a shovel.

Gardening carries with it a number of to-dos that often require their own, separate attention and time.

Like going to the gym.

Just reaching, digging and crouching around your flower bed qualifies as low-impact exercise and challenges muscle groups that might leave you reaching for the Icy Hot.

Though not the calorie burn associated with more strenuous exercise, a 150-pound person can torch 272 of those little buggers per hour, making gardening an excellent option for those with chronic pain or degenerative diseases.

For those who are able, let’s not forget that “gardening” can tiptoe over the line to “landscaping” at any moment, which can awaken many a muscle still in winter hibernation. Use of a wheelbarrow, rearranging rocks or digging a hole can all catapult your little gardening session into a calorie-incinerating, heart-conditioning obstacle course.

Meaning to take a little extra time for your skin?

Air pollution from traffic is associated with signs of skin aging like lines, wrinkles and changes in pigmentation, but your hanging baskets have your back (or your face). One of the products of photosynthesis – or how plants make food from light – is oxygen, which elbows out those youth-stealing fumes in favor of fresh air.

A long day in the garden might warrant a facial delicious enough to eat. Ingredients like strawberries, cucumbers and more make great additions to homemade masks filled with other pantry goodies like honey and oatmeal.

That face love is all for naught without a little sunscreen while you’re tilling the fields. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning that it protects against UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30 or greater.

OK. You’ve exercised, and your skin looks fantastic. How about a little self-love for your mind?

A study from the Netherlands reveals that gardening may cause a better chill-out than other leisure activities. The study’s subjects completed a stressful task, then either read indoors or gardened for 30 minutes. The group of gardeners reported better moods, and tests revealed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the green acres group.

The reason why might have something to do with the type of attention gardening requires. As opposed to the directed, white-knuckled attention email and iPhones demand, gardening asks for a more passive type of attention, which allows the mind to recharge.

Hungry after all that pampering? Reap your harvest.

No more excuses about the expense or inaccessibility of fresh fruits and veggies. For as little as a few dollars per plant, the produce section can be found literally in your own backyard.

For those of you who have lived on another planet for the past decade, the evidence in favor of consuming fresh foods over processed, pre-made ones is overwhelming. It reduces the risk of cancers, improves your skin and hair, improves cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. I could go on.

Our day-to-day routine is wrought with have-tos and I-shoulds, but with the simple act of harvesting a few leaves of lettuce, a sense of groundedness and order takes hold. The primitive rhythm of getting dirt on your hands, caring for a living thing and nourishing yourself with its bounty practically feels like a superpower.

With so many benefits rolled into one, you don’t have time not to garden.

Abigail Mackey is a registered nurse. For more quips and tips refer to her blog, “The Written Remedy” (thewrittenremedy.blogspot.com). Abby can be reached at amackrn23@gmail.com or on Twitter at @AbigailMackeyRN.



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