Get Active with Gardening

GardeningApril is National Garden Month, and if you garden, you probably have experienced many of the benefits. Gardening not only provides nutritious food, it also provides a great cardio and strengthening workout. Spending time connecting with nature can also relieve stress. The regular physical activity gardening provides helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The strength gained (think carrying watering cans full of water or pushing a wheelbarrow) helps prevent osteoporosis as well. As with any physical activity, it is important to check with your doctor if you have concerns. Consider starting a garden this year. It does not have to be big, even a window box or a few containers provide many benefits. Learn more about the benefits of growing your own produce.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

Gardening: Top 10 Vegetables to Grow and Eat for Health

sb10062327dd-001Growing your own food doesn’t have to be difficult. If you have never gardened, start small using containers or a small plot of land. Plant vegetables you really like to eat.

Several vegetables that grow well in Iowa made it to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach “Top 10 Vegetavcbles to Eat for Health” list. Choose to grow and eat the following vegetables to boost your health:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels spouts
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  •  Red bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter squash

These vegetables earned their ratings by providing at least 20 percent of the recommended dietary intake for one or more nutrients such as Vitamin A or potassium.

Each vegetable was also rated for its oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). This measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances. Consuming high-ORAC foods may help protect cells from damage by oxygen radicals. This, in turn, may slow down the processes associated with aging in both the body and the brain.

Numerous publications are available to download and print as you plan and plant your garden. Go to the Extension Store at and enter either the title or number of the publication of interest in the search box:

  • Planting a Home Vegetable Garden (PM 819)
  • Small Plot Vegetable Gardening (PM 870A)
  • Container Vegetable Gardening (PM 870B)

If you have further questions, contact your local county extension office or enroll in classes to become a “Master Gardener.”

Gardening Counts as Physical Activity

mowingGardening is a great way not only to enjoy some fresh air and grow your own vegetables and fruits, but also to get some exercise.

Gardening activities—such as pulling weeds, removing rocks, trimming shrubs, digging, planting, and raking—require you to expend energy (burn calories). Physical activity can help strengthen bones and joints, lower blood pressure, and help manage stress.

Gardening is a fun, creative, and healthy activity with positive health benefits.

(30 minutes for 150 lb person)
Energy Expenditure
Digging/pulling weeds, removing rocks 200-250 kcal
Trimming trees and shrubs 150-170 kcal
Mowing (using push reel mowers) 200-230 kcal
Raking 120-150 kcal
Walking (slow to fast) 150-230 kcal

Want to grow your own vegetables or herbs? Check out the many Yard and Garden publications at the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store.

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