I have but a modest little balcony to adorn with flowers and it has given me such valuable benefits, apart from the food I grow in containers. Here the three main benefits-
1. Exercise- bending, straightening up, kneeling, stretching, lifting (carefully!), lifting up on your toes- all these positions that we use while gardening are also poses used in Yoga, Pilates and other stretching exercises. With care, these can become a part of our daily routine- and time saving as well because you can exercise while doing something else . Gardeners are some of the healthiest and fittest people I have seen.
2. Mental health- The gardener’s concentration skills and calmness are also affected positively by what they do and how they do it. I suppose that is why Zen monks take such good care of their gardens. It is a two way process- creating beauty with very little (some Zen gardens are just raked sand and stones) which in turn gives the benefits of creativity and calmness. Spending time outdoors is also healing.
3. Building better bones- I recently had a health scare when my blood test revealed very little Vitamin D. The lack of vitamin D can lead to bone pain and tenderness due to a condition called osteomalacia. Despite doing Yoga and stretching, I was still suffering from aches and pains (and am due to visit a physiotherapist). I have been prescribed Vitamin D tablets now. However, I was surprised to learn that these tablets by themselves do not do much- they still need sunlight to make them effective. Sunlight has UV light that helps Vitamin D to absorb the calcium from food. Particularly for women after the age of 30-35 when bones start to disintegrate and for older people, sunlight is essential. However too much UV exposure can lead to melanoma and pre-mature skin ageing. So I was scared of going in the sun. However, if you do your outdoor gardening before 11-00 am and after 4-00pm, when the sun has lost its fierceness, you will be be fine as long as you don’t let your skin burn. About 5 minutes exposure to white skin is fine while darker skins should be out for longer.
My 81 year old Japanese friend who looks at least 20 years younger, gave me this tip- she exposes her palms and lower arms to the sun for about 20 minutes and she has had no problems at all. This can be done very easily when gardening.