Gardening can help keep the whole family in shape and put the kids on a path to healthy eating.
Physical activity is any movement of the body that results in an increase in energy expenditure compared to the body at rest. Gardens offer ample opportunity for children and parents alike to enjoy physical activity outdoors. While physical activity in the garden is still being researched and measured, we know of the following five physical benefits:
- Gardens encourage the body to build muscle volume and muscle strength. From pushing a wheelbarrow to pulling weeds, gardening forces muscles to do work. Typically this work is performed by multiple muscle groups working together to complete the task. This is different from weight lifting in the gym, which tends to single out specific muscles in a single movement. Gardening helps kids develop physically by encouraging strength and muscle growth through fun activities. In gardening, they can get a total body strength workout in one single activity. The best part is, your kids won’t even know they are doing work!
- Gardening can put a child on the path to healthy eating. Gardening offers children the opportunity to “play” with their food and take care of it. For most children, it takes seven to 10 positive experiences with a food before they will try and like a food. Gardening helps create these positive experiences that will put your child on the right path to eating healthy. Eating healthy, along with the physical activity, will help your child maintain a healthy weight.
- Gardening keeps children moving and using more energy than unhealthy habits such as sitting on the computer, watching television, playing video games or eating unhealthy snacks.
- Short bouts of gardening are fun for the whole family! Children have short attention spans, so it is important to recognize signs of boredom. The more fun your child has, the more likely he or she will want to do it again. For instance, activities like digging, harvesting and watering can be more entertaining and rewarding than pulling weeds. Start with short periods in the garden and build on the experience over time. Before long, your child will be begging to water the tomatoes or dig up onions.
- 60 minutes of steady work (digging, weeding, mulching, etc.) is the equivalent of taking 10,000 steps in one day or walking about five miles.
Do you enjoy gardening? How do you get your kids involved? Share your ideas in the comments below.