Gardening is the second most popular form of physical activity in Canada, just behind walking as the top physical activity. Recent statistics from the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute show that 48 per cent of adults enjoy being physically active through gardening.
If you’d like to do some gardening but don’t live in a house with a yard, why not look into local community gardens? Community gardens are on land that belongs to the community, or a church, university or school. You can either tend your own plots or share the work and the harvest by having a joint garden.
People work in community gardens for a variety of reasons. Many gardeners say the benefits include:
- Meeting new people or enjoying time spent with old friends.
- Getting exercise while doing something they love.
- Being physically active while spending time outdoors.
- Growing fresh, wholesome produce for themselves and others.
As described in this article, there are other benefits as well, such as developing a sense of community and improving mental health.
Developing a Sense of Community
Community gardens encourage people to share skills and tools as well as knowledge about gardening. In the process, people start getting to know their neighbours.
Community gardens can help people of different cultures, backgrounds and incomes come together to enjoy a common interest. For example, at a graduate student housing complex in Michener Park at the University of Alberta, many foreign students and their families enjoy a community garden. Families living in the complex can sign up for one of the 56 plots, which are 2.7 metres long by 0.9 metres wide.
The supervisors, who are from China, Korea and four African countries, organize the garden and encourage members of various cultural groups to get to know each other.
Improving Mental Health
Gardening lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and can improve both your physical and mental health. Gardening is also a creative outlet, as it involves planning, designing and tending.
In addition, gardeners enjoy the results of their efforts (colourful blooms, tasty vegetables and green grass), and the way a garden stimulates their senses (taste, vision, smell and touch).
Gardening therapists use gardening to help people heal physically and emotionally, and to express their emotions. (For more details on this, see the Go for Green website listed below.)
Being Physically Active and Eating Healthy Food
The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines advise adults to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Gardening for an hour can help you achieve all three of the goals of physical activity: strength (lifting bales of peat moss or soil), endurance (raking and digging) and flexibility (weeding).
Canada’s new food guide reminds us to eat at least one dark green vegetable and one orange vegetable each day. Gardeners who grow vegetables can eat them fresh, or freeze and preserve them for future meals.
Community gardening is fun, sociable and good for your health. If you don’t have a community garden in your neighbourhood, maybe you can get one started. Many gardening networks can provide good information, advice and sometimes even tools or supplies.
Calgary Horticultural Society
Information on community gardening and how to get involved in the Calgary area, where there are 15 community gardens and more on the way.
Edmonton Community Garden Network
This non-profit group made up of volunteers represents community gardens in the Edmonton area.
Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
Guidelines for daily physical activity. All four guides can be found on this webpage.
Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association
How gardening can improve mental health.
Food Share: Field to Table
An excellent Toronto-based site providing information for the community gardener, including a newsletter.