I don’t know what it is about a garden that has always drawn humans to them. But they’ve always been very popular, and an integral part of peoples’ lifestyles. Most religions feature gardens as the settings for some of the biggest events According to Christianity, humanity was started in a garden and the son of God was resurrected in a garden. The Buddhist build gardens to allow nature to permeate their surroundings. Almost every major palace and government building has a garden. But what’s so great about them? They’re just a bunch of plants, after all.
Of course, the reasoning is fairly obvious behind why people grow food in gardens. It’s to eat! If you live off the fat of the land and actually survive on stuff from your garden, it’s easy to understand the reasoning. But I’m thinking about those people who plant flower gardens just for the sake of looking nice. There’s no immediate benefit that I can see; you just have a bunch of flowers in your yard! However, after thinking extensively about the motivation behind planting decorative gardens, I’ve conceived several possible theories.
Love of Nature
I think one of the reasons people love gardens so much is that while we have a natural desire to progress and industrialize, deep within all of us is a primal love for nature. While this desire might not be as strong as the desire for modernism, it is still strong enough to compel us to create gardens, small outlets of nature, in the midst of all our hustle and bustle. Since being in nature is like regressing to an earlier stage of humanity, we too can regress to a time of comfort and utter happiness. This is why gardens are so relaxing and calming to be in. This is why gardens are a good place to meditate and do tai chi exercises. A garden is a way to quickly escape from the busy world.
I’ve thought at times that perhaps we as humans feel a sort of guilt driving us to restore nature and care for it. This guilt could stem from the knowledge that we (humanity), have destroyed so much of nature to get where we are today. It’s the least we can do to build a small garden in remembrance of all the trees we kill every day. It’s my theory that this is the underlying reason for most people to take up gardening as a hobby.
Gardening is definitely a healthy habit though, don’t get me wrong. Any hobby that provides physical exercise, helps the environment, and improves your diet can’t be a negative thing. So no matter what the underlying psychological cause for gardening is, I think that everyone should continue to do so. In the USA especially, which is dealing with obesity and pollution as its two major problems, I think gardening can only serve to improve the state of the world.
Using Gardening to Get in Shape
While gardening is usually thought of as a productive way to grow beautiful plants and obtain tasty fruits and vegetables, few gardeners have ever considered the immense amounts of exercise one can get in the process of gardening. While you can get almost as much muscle (if not more) exercise as you do working out, it is very productive at the same time.
You may wonder how gardening could possibly give as much exercise as working out. Just think about all the various facets of preparing a garden. There are holes to be dug, bags and pots to be carried, and weeds to be pulled. Doing all of these things help to work out almost every group of muscles in your body.
My brother is a fanatic about working out. Almost every time I call his house, I end up interrupting some muscle toning activity. I’ve never really enjoyed working out, though, as it seems that the constant lifting of heavy things just puts a strain on my body with no immediate positive results. But while he is into working out, I am almost equally enthusiastic about gardening. I work outside improving my garden almost every day. I think I definitely surprised my brother when he realized that I am almost as muscular as he is; but I have never lifted a single dumbbell!
Before you go out into your garden, you should always stretch out. Even if your goal isn’t to work out and get exercise, it’s still a good idea. Often gardeners spend long periods of time hunched over or bent over. This can be bad for your back. So not only should you stretch out before hand, but you should always take frequent breaks if you’re spending long amounts of time in these positions.
Weeding and pruning are some of the best workouts a gardener can get. With the constant crouching and standing, the legs get a great workout. If your weeds are particularly resistant, your arms will become particularly toned just from the effort required to remove them from the ground. If you plan on taking the whole workout think very seriously, you should always be switching arms and positions to spread out the work between different areas of your body.
One of the most obvious ways to get exercise is in the transporting and lifting of bags and pots. Between the nursery and your house, you will have to move the bags multiple times (to the checkout, to your car, to your garden, and then spreading them out accordingly). As long as you remember to lift with your legs and not your back, transporting bags and pots can give you a fairly big workout, even though you probably don’t make those purchases very often.
Mowing your grass can also be a great exercise. If you’ve got an older mower that isn’t self propelled, just the act of pushing it through the grass will give you more of a workout than going to the gym for a few hours. During the course of mowing the grass, you use your chest, arms, back, and shoulder to keep the mower ahead of you. Your thighs and butt also get worked a lot to propel the mower. Not only do you get an all around muscle work out, but it can improve your heart’s health. It’s good for you as a cardiovascular activity, as well as a great way to lose weight due to the increased heart rate and heavy breathing.
If you plan on using gardening as a way to get in shape or lose some weight, you can hardly go wrong. Just be sure to stretch out, drink plenty of water, and apply sunscreen. As long as you take steps to prevent the few negative effects such as pulled muscles, dehydration and sunburn, I think you’ll have a great time and end up being a healthier person because of it.
I’m just a curious gardener. I often stay up for hours wondering what makes me garden. What is it that makes me go outside for a few hours every day with my gardening tools, and facilitate the small-time growth of plants that would grow naturally on their own? I may never know, but in this case ignorance truly is bliss.
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