Wellbeing

Grow your own health and happiness

Q: What activity boosts your fitness and wellbeing all in one go?

A: Gardening – the perfect new hobby for anyone who’s trying to lead a healthier life! Here are five ways to boost body and mind...

1. Plant lots of herbs 
Adding herbs to meals is a great way to boost flavour and reduce reliance on less healthy enhancers, such as sugar, salt and fat. The trick is to find varieties that tick the boxes for both the savoury and sweet flavours you’re after. Try aromatic herbs, such as rosemary and thyme for savoury flavours, while basil will add a lovely sweetness.

2. Maximise your moves 
While simply doing gardening will help to improve fitness and tone your muscles, adapting your moves slightly can turn your garden into a gym. For example, when mowing, don’t just walk with the mower but do lunges, where you take a big step forward, bend one knee, then dip your body down towards the floor. Leave the hose coiled up – carrying a watering can back and forth is like a mini weights routine. And when you’re raking, give both your arms a workout: do 10 strokes with one hand, then swap to the other.

3. Be proud of your plants 
Taking pride in your results will make you feel better about yourself – a recent study showed that self-esteem can rise after people have spent time gardening. The sense of achievement in bringing something to life, social interaction, such as chatting to neighbours over the fence, and eating food you produce yourself can all give you a boost.

4. Grow a 5-a-day garden 
Cultivate a variety of colourful fruit and veg with different in-season dates, so you have the freshest picks throughout the year. ‘Salad leaves are simple to grow from seed,’ says gardening expert Richard Jackson. In August you could still sow quick maturing salad crops including summer lettuce, radish, rocket, and fennel in the south of England. Other veg such as tomatoes, carrots or cauliflower are best sown in the spring. 

5. Slash stress with an escape
Gardeners exposed to stress find it affects them less than other people. To power up the calming effect, why not make yourself a small chill-out area to relax in? Start with some sounds that relax you – perhaps a water feature or some wind chimes, or you could add a bird feeder, so your garden is filled with birdsong. Scent can also play a part – lavender is known for its calming properties.