The Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

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It's a given that growing your own fruits and veggies can improve your diet. But did you know that gardening can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and boost your mood?

It's true — gardening offers many great benefits for seniors. It also counts as exercise. Bending, stretching, and digging burns calories as well as strengthens your muscles. And active people are less likely to have depression, weight problems, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or colon cancer.

If you can stay active for at least 2½ hours each week, you're on the right track. So head to the garden, start planting, and stay healthy!

Build a garden in your backyard

Planting in burlap sacks is easy, fun, and affordable. It requires a small amount of space and just a few materials. Plus, burlap sacks are eco-friendly. You can buy them at your local garden or home store. Grab some burlap sacks, seedlings, soil, and a small shovel. Here's how to build your own:

1. Find a good spot for your sacks.

Look for a flat location with good drainage and plenty of sun. It's much easier to move empty sacks and fill them on location than to lift and move them once full. If you have a patio, some kind of barrier between the bag and wood, stone, or cement would work well to prevent staining.

2. Prepare your sacks to be filled with soil.

Stand each sack upright and fold the top half down over the bottom half, covering the outside of the sack. This fold will add extra strength and support. Stand your sack upright and open it as wide as you can.

3. Add soil and plant.

Add soil slowly, making adjustments as your sack starts to take shape. As you add soil, add plants, seeds, or bulbs at the optimum growth level, taking into consideration the age and type of plant you wish to grow.

Don't worry if you don't have the space in your backyard. Look into community gardens that may be in your city or town. These shared open spaces give you the freedom to plant your own fruits and veggies on a small plot of land. Either way, you'll be able to reap the benefits of getting your hands dirty and growing your own food.

Amy Capomaccio is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health care. When she's not practicing new mindfulness techniques, Amy is spending time outdoors and traveling. Amy hails from Wakefield, MA and has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Tampa.

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